College receives boost to fight rhino poaching
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) has awarded a grant of $100,000 (R1.65m) to the Southern African Wildlife College to support training and anti-poaching operations to protect rhinos in the wild.
The college, situated near Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga, provides training to natural resource managers from across Africa.
The college also directly operates K9 and aerial support units in the Kruger National Park and surrounding reserves.
Kruger National Park is home to the largest concentration of rhinos in the world and faces intense poaching pressure.
The department of environment, forestry and fisheries reported earlier this year that 2,014 incursions and poacher activities were recorded in the park during 2019, and a total of 327 rhino were lost to poaching.
The foundation has partnered with the college in the the past to provide K9 units and training to game reserve partners.
“We have been extremely impressed with their work, and K9 units are a valuable asset in protecting rhinos.
“We look forward to expanding our partnership to help protect some of the world’s most important rhino populations,” IRF’s executive director Nina Fascione said.
Fascione said the IRF initially provided funding to big game parks in eSwatini for two dogs and ranger training through the college.
“A well-trained rhino dog and its handler are powerful weapons against wildlife crime and are playing an increasingly important role in African rhino anti-poaching efforts,” Fascione said.
Part of the IRF funding will help pay the salaries of trainers and the staff who run the K9 and aerial support units.
The college, which was established in 1996 and has trained more than 18,000 students, is slowly reopening for student intakes after being closed for a few months due to Covid-19 mitigation efforts.