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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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