Archives for September2013

Prince William to focus on wildlife conservation and endangered species

12 September 2013

It was announced today that Prince William is to leave armed forces to focus on conservation and other charity work. The prince will be the president of United for Wildlife which, the palace said, will “bring together some of the world’s largest environmental organisations and harness the resources and expertise of global leaders in business, communications, technology and the creative industries to tackle a common, universal challenge”. The illegal wildlife trade will be the initial focus of the new alliance, which also involves the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

The news comes as it was announced the duke had completed his tour as an search and rescue helicopter pilot based at RAF Valley in Anglesey. He is leaving the military after more than seven-and-a-half years of full-time service. The Duke of Cambridge said: “The threats to our natural heritage are extensive, but I believe that this collaboration of the best minds in conservation will provide the impetus for a renewed commitment and action to protect endangered species and habitats for future generations. “At the root of the illegal wildlife trade, for example, is the demand for products that require the deaths of tens of thousands of these animals every year, pushing them further towards extinction. “We must work together to prevent this catastrophe and allow our children the opportunity to experience wildlife in its many beautiful and varied forms.”

The seven conservation organisations involved in the United for Wildlife grouping are Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF-UK and the Zoological Society of London.

Prince William, who completed his last RAF shift on Tuesday, will continue to carry out royal engagements but is not expected to increase his number of public duties – with sources saying the second in line to throne is in a “transitional” year. I“The duke will work closely over the next 12 months with the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. He will expand his work in the field of conservation, particularly in respect of endangered species,” added the statement.

It is hugely encouraging to conservation organisations when a high profile person becomes involved to help highlight the many important wildlife and flora issues that are affecting the natural world, where so many people are working hard to protect and educate about why we need our wildlife, and what the implications of preserving them are. We at saSafari work with a number of lodges who run conservation and breeding programmes, and we have recently adopted an endangered Black Rhino as part of our giving back initative.  Find out more about it on our Giving Back page

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The Plight of the Rhino

The Plight of the Rhino

saSafari UK – July 2013

Recently I attended a talk by Tony Hughes who has lived in South Africa for the past 42 years, and Rhino Conservation is a personal passion of his. He highlighted the reality of the Rhino becoming extinct with some interesting and sobering facts.

In South Africa, a Rhino is killed every 11 hours.

The Rhino population has declined by 90% since 1970. As of June 2013 there are 20,000 White Rhino left, and only 4,860 Black Rhino left in South Africa. In neighbouring Mozambique, the Rhino has been completely eradicated through poaching.

The White Rhino has a square lip, and is placid in nature. A grazer, it can eat up to 220kg of grass a day. They can weigh up to 2.3 tons, and run at up to 40km/hour in short bursts. Even though they are short sighted they have a keen sense of smell. Their calves walk in front of the mother where she can smell her calf, having such bad eyesight.

The Black Rhino, which has a hook lip, is aggressive in nature. As browsers they eat from trees and shrubs. They can weigh up to 1.9 tons, and run up to 25km/hour in short bursts. They have excellent vision and sense of smell. Their calves walk behind the mother.

Powdered Rhino horn is used in all kinds of treatments and medicines in the Far East and Africa, and in the Middle East for ornamental dagger handles in Yemen. All based on folklore and myth, the medicines have absolutely no effect on the various ailments they are used for. The horn is made of protein keratin, just like the keratin we have in our hair and nails.

Its the value of the horn that is staggering. Today, Rhino horn costs £60,000 per kg. Thats twice as much as the value of Gold. A horn weighs on average 3kg. A poacher is paid on average £2000,00 per horn.

In 2011 448 Rhinos were killed in South Africa, in 2012 it rose to 668. As of June 2013 408 Rhinos have been killed (of those 265 were in the Kruger National Park). In 2011 232 poachers were arrested, 267 in 2012, and as of June 2013 121 poachers were caught (of which 56 were caught in the Kruger National Park.

The Kruger National Park is 7580 square miles. You could fit Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire into that area. The eastern park border with Mozambique has to be patrolled to keep poachers out – it is 190 miles long. Thats like having to patrol a border from Penzance to Bristol. Anti-poaching is a military operation as you have contact with determined poachers who are armed, and who will shoot to kill the special operations that are in place to apprehend them. The way Rhinos are slaughtered is appalling, many still alive when their horns are hacked off and left to die agonising deaths.

Poaching is now being referred to as trafficking as it is being supported by international organised crime, militias and terrorists. SANPARK game rangers in South Africa have huge areas to patrol but they also get support from the South African Police, South African Defence Force, South African Air Force. They also have 2 drones and 2 helicopters, dog units, as well as specially trained forces.

All low flying aircraft over the parks have to switch to a specific frequency. Any unidentified aircraft will be intercepted by the air force. Farmers, residents and rangers in the park areas are also required to be on the look out and report anything unusual they may see on the ground or air.

De-horning Rhinos, relocation, micro chips and looking at way to poison or damage the horn have all been interventions made in recent years. However international pressure to ban Rhino hunting and products is the only way to save the Rhino, as well as donations to relocate them to protected areas. Their plight is going beyond the Africa bush – recently a wildlife park in the UK was put on high alert when they were alerted to a plot to poach the Rhinos in their park following a tip off to Police.

There are many established charities and organisations to help save the Rhino. These include Save The Rhino, WWF, International Rhino Foundations, Wildlife ACT Fund, Forever Wild, WESSA Rhino Initiative, Black Rhino Range Expansion Programme (BRREP), and Rhino Force (Rhino relocation).

Below are some reasons why we need to save the Rhino:

1. Rhinos are critically endangered
Three of the five species of rhino are “Critically Endangered” as defined by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). The Black Rhino It is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The White rhino is classified by the IUCN in the lesser category of being “Near Threatened”; and the Indian rhino is classified as “Vulnerable”.

2. Rhinos have been around for 50 million years
Rhinos have been an important part of a wide range of ecosystems for millions of years.

3. Humans have caused the drastic decline in numbers
Poachers kill rhinos for the price they can get for the horn; land encroachment, illegal logging and pollution are destroying their habitat; and political conflicts adversely affect conservation programmes.

4. Rhinos are an umbrella species
When protecting and managing a rhino population, rangers and scientists take in account all the other species interacting with rhinos and those sharing the same habitat. When rhinos are protected, many other species are too; not only mammals but also birds, reptiles, fish and insects as well as plants.

5. Rhinos attract visitors and tourists
Rhinos are the second-biggest living land mammals after the elephants. Together with lion, giraffe, chimpanzee and polar bear, the rhino is one of the most popular species with zoo visitors. In the wild, rhinos attract tourists who bring money to national parks and local communities. They are one of the “Big Five”, along with lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo.

6. In situ conservation programmes need our help
Protecting and managing a rhino population is a real challenge that costs energy and money. Rhino-range countries need our financial support, and benefit from shared expertise and exchange of ideas.

7. Money funds effective conservation programmes that save rhinos
We know that conservation efforts save species. The Southern White rhino would not exist today if it were not for the work of a few determined people, who brought together the 200 or so individuals surviving, for a managed breeding and re-introduction programme. Today, there are some 17,500 Southern White rhinos. The Northern White rhino subspecies may just have become extinct, but it is not too late to save the rest.

8. Many people don’t know that rhinos are critically endangered
Not just that, but how many people know that rhinos also live in Asia? Or that two species have just one horn? Or that the horn is not used as an aphrodisiac? We have even heard some people say that they are carnivores!

If people do not know about these amazing animals and the problems they are facing, how can we expect them to want to do something to help save rhinos?

SaSafari is going to be launching our first Giving Back initiative in support of the Rhino. Have a look at our Big 5 website page to learn more about the Rhino and the other Big 5 animals of southern Africa

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