Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) has awarded multiple grants to land conservancies in Southern Africa that serve as important reserves for black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and other wildlife. Since 2008, an increase in rhino poaching has been reported in southern Africa. In this same time frame, SCIF has provided more than US $80,000 to fund rangers, aircraft, trail cameras, telemetry equipment and other tools to combat the increase in poaching.
Collaborative efforts among conservation organizations and the hunting industry are using hunter-generated revenue to successfully prevent poaching.
One of SCIF’s partners, the Chiredzi River Black Rhino Charitable Trust (Chiredzi River Conservancy) uses funds provided by SCIF to promote its anti-poaching activities through the deployment of Game Scouts (anti-poaching rangers) who patrol the conservancy. In addition to the SCIF grant, the Chiredzi River Conservancy sought advice from Matt Eckert, SCIF Manager of Science-Based Conservation Programs & Research, for developing a conservation model for the organization.
The Chiredzi River Conservancy has taken great strides toward reducing poaching activity and plans to employ additional anti-poaching personnel to maintain patrols. In Tanzania, the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF) conducts surveillance flights with microlight aircraft because of vital support from SCIF. FCF is working closely with the Tanzanian government on poacher surveillance. The microlight covers more than 9 million acres of protected areas.
Although the work conducted by FCF focuses on elephants and the general bushmeat trade, the techniques being perfected will undoubtedly have wider applications for anti-poaching work throughout Africa. Airborne reconnaissance that coordinates movements of ground crews improves the speed of ranger response and ultimately leads to more arrests.
In 2011, SCIF announced a partnership with The WILD Foundation where rhino poaching will be fought in South Africa through the Rhino Informant Incentive Fund (RIIF). The RIIF provides financial incentives to economically underdeveloped rural communities where rhino poachers reside. Furthermore, local individuals act as informants to assist local law enforcement in apprehending poachers. RIIF has led to the confiscation of horns, weapons and equipment. SCIF’s sister organization Safari Club International (SCI) has actively lobbied on behalf of the Rhino & Tiger Conservation Fund (RTCF) that has been administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for well over 10 years. Multiple other rhino conservation organizations have benefitted by receiving funds from the Rhino & Tiger Conservation Fund.
SCI was a founding member of the Multi-National Species Conservation Fund Coalition (MNSFC), currently sits on the coalition steering committee, and financially supports the coalition coordinator. Both the RTCF and MNSFC provide assistance to global wildlife conservation efforts. The MNSFC fought very hard in recent budget debates in the United States Congress to ensure that the Multi-National Conservation Funds remained a part of the Fish & Wildlife Service budget.
Without the involvement of SCI and others of the coalition, these precious funds may not have been realized. Rhinos reproduce slowly so it is a natural reaction by managers to immediately become preservationists when faced with seemingly insurmountable poaching activity. Anti-poaching teams require significant financial investment, and SCIF has identified ways to make these programs sustainable.
Legal hunting of rhinoceros exists in accordance to recommendations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Hosting carefully implemented hunts for non-reproducing individuals (i.e., over-mature males) can generate considerable amount of revenue for conservation programs. In fact, over-mature males have the potential to pose a threat to black rhinos still able to contribute to the future of the species. Sustainable-use of rhinos can promote enhancement of the species just like so many other game animals. Ensuring that animals harvested lawfully do not enter the illegal trade in wildlife parts and tarnish the reputation of legitimate conservationists is a major consideration of SCIF. Poachers and smugglers should not benefit from the dedicated work of true rhino conservationists by skimming the gains made after decades of due diligence. Additional opportunities to support rhino conservation are currently being reviewed by the SCIF. By Marcus Gray, Coordinator of Science-Based Conservation Programs and Research