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Black Rhino Range Expansion Project

Dear Friends of White Elephant,

Please see the below newsletter from the WWF/ Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which as you will see, took place in the Pongola Game Reserve, home to White Elephant Safari Lodge and Bush Camp.

It indeed was a historic and awesome occassion, which I was privy to be part of, not only in helping bring it about, but actually seeing 6 of the 12 releases.

Hlala Gahle,

Manfred Kohrs
Managing Member

Black Rhino Range Expansion Project
Newsletter VII October 2006

Black rhino released on to Pongola Game Reserve

After months of behind-the-scenes work and negotiation, twelve black rhino were released on to Pongola Game Reserve late last week. The animals form the third founder population of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

To create the Pongola Game Reserve, six neighbouring landowners brought together 13 000 hectares of land under single management for the benefit of black rhino.

The reserve is in northern KwaZulu-Natal, near Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Pongola Nature Reserve. We hope that there will soon be a link between the two areas.

Trying a lower-stress technique

As part of the ongoing attempt to minimise stress for translocated animals, a new release technique was tried this year. The animal is given an anaesthetic in the crate. As it is about to fall asleep, the door is opened and it wanders out. A rope is held to slow its momentum. Ideally, it falls asleep just outside the crate. All equipment, lorries and staff leave the area, except for the person who administers the antidote. When the animal wakes up, a few minutes later, there is nothing around to disturb it. Ideally and usually, the rhino immediately starts browsing.

The technique worked very well in nearly all the rhino, but in game capture nothing is predictable as the following sequence shows…

Very sleepy...

Still sleepy...

A new lease on life…

A chase…

Finally asleep.

A Spoornet railway line runs through Pongola Game Reserve. Spoornet have specially slowed down all of their trains in the reserve for the sake of the black rhino.

Black rhino calf and mother at Zululand Rhino Reserve. Pic by Karen Odendaal.

Sites 1 and 2

The Project’s first founder population of 15 animals was released on to Munyawana Game Reserve in 2004.
The second population of 21 animals was released on to Zululand Rhino Reserve in 2005. Both reserves were created by a number of neighbouring landholders in order to receive black rhino.
“We are delighted at how well things have gone at both of those sites. We have three calves so far and look forward to more,” says WWF project leader Dr Jacques Flamand.
Black rhino as a flagship
Unbeknown to it, the shy, nervous, blustery black rhino has contributed immensely to conservation over the last three years. Through the Project, more than 80 000 hectares of land in KZN have been brought under more rational conservation use. Many landowners have helped the Project succeed. “Landowners have committed themselves to partnerships with one another and with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to look after black rhino on a custodianship basis. For many this has required brave sacrifice. They have given up a degree of independence and they have contributed significantly, in cash and kind, to the protection of black rhino on their land,” says Dr Flamand.
Future prospects
The uninterrupted blocks of land catalysed through the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project range from 13 000 hectares to 24 000 hectares and there is the exciting prospect of links between them. There are also excellent prospects of bringing in community-owned land. Two areas are already envisaged: one which could link to Weenen Nature Reserve and one with links to Pongola Game Reserve. Through the Project we hope to make black communities real stakeholders in conservation which is very important for the long-term security of the black rhino and other endangered species. We also hope to release a population of black rhino on to the eMakhosini Ophathe Heritage Park between Ulundi and iMfolozi soon.
Project aim

The Project aims to increase black rhino numbers by increasing the land available for their conservation, thus reducing pressure on existing reserves and providing new areas in which they can breed rapidly. It does this by facilitating partnerships between neighbouring landowners in order to create large areas of land with good black rhino habitat. This is best for rapid population growth, essential for the long-term health of a critically endangered species.

The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is a partnership between WWF and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It is made possible through funding from WWF-Netherlands, through WWF-South Africa, and is supported by the Mazda Wildlife Fund.

Project contacts

Dr Jacques Flamand
Project leader
082 705 9710
035 550 0666
PO Box 456 Mtubatuba 3935

Pam Sherriffs
Communications manager
033 845 1856
083 943 1754
PO Box 13053 Cascades 3202

"A Celebration From The Soul"

PO BOX 792 | Pongola | 3170 | KwaZulu Natal | South Africa

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