"Every debate is important because it keeps the issue alive, and right now that is critical if rhinos are to survive." Ian Player
The Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative is one of the Wilderness Foundation's advocacy and awareness programmes that was launched in May 2011 in response to the rhino poaching crisis. The initiative is concerned with maintaining populations of free ranging rhino within state and privately managed conservation areas.
The campaign supports conservation agencies and organized private game reserves in protecting their rhino as part of a functioning natural ecosystem. It also aims to focus the attention of politicians and decision-makers and encourage them to apply pressure both nationally and abroad to address the issue of illegal trade in rhino horn and other wildlife products.
The Wilderness Foundation’s Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative raises, distributes and administers funds for the following anti-poaching activities:
- Sniffer dog and canine units (including vehicles and gear) in the North West Parks reserves where rhino poaching incidents are some of the highest in the country.
- Aerial support in the Eastern Cape. We have provided funds and operating costs towards a dedicated helicopter that regularly patrols and responds to poaching threats in the main Eastern Cape reserves that have rhino.
- Equipment and funds (including forensic equipment) to the hawks and special police investigating units.
- Four-wheelers and other equipment to reserves in the Western and Eastern Cape that are home to rhino. These vehicles allow rangers to patrol larger areas as part of their poaching prevention strategies.
- Educational material and fact sheets - on the history of rhino in South Africa, and poaching facts. These materials are used in both education and awareness initiatives aimed at schools. The resources are available country-wide.
- A rhino hot-line has been set up offering an anonymous facility to receive calls and tip-offs related to rhino poaching. These tips are then forwarded to relevant authorities. This has proved successful in preventing a number of rhino poaching incidents.
- Rhino survivor fund set up and administered by the Foundation. The fund was set up together with wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds (supported by Investec Rhino Lifeline) to respond to, and assist in cases, where rhinos have been poached for their horn but are still alive and can be rescued, rehabilitated and eventually function again in wild habitats.