In celebration of World Rhino Day, this year we’ve dedicated this blog to highlight the rhino crisis in South Africa as well as what we at Shamwari Game Reserve are doing about the epidemic.

We pride ourselves on our actions in conserving a vanishing way of life. The rhino poaching crisis in South Africa and the world has severe consequences. Aside from the growing severity of the species going extinct, many rhino calves are left behind as orphans and do not survive.

In recent times, the African rhino population has suffered major devastation due to poaching, resulting in rapidly declining population numbers. The once vast amount of these animals has dwindled to the point where it’s a growing epidemic and the species is bordering on extinction.

Hunters and traders from international crime groups are involved in the trade, who engage in the sale of rhino horn, purely for profit.

Poachers are now being supplied by international criminal gangs with sophisticated equipment to track and kill rhinos. Often they use a tranquiliser gun to bring the rhino down and hack off its horn, leaving the animal to wake up and bleed to death very painfully and slowly. Poachers are also often armed with guns, making them an imposing threat to the anti-poaching teams who put their lives on the line to protect rhinos.

The scarcity of rhinos today and the corresponding intermittent availability of their horns only drive the price higher, and intensifies the pressure on the declining rhino populations. For people whose annual income is often far below the subsistence level, the opportunity to change one’s life by killing an animal that they don’t value is overwhelming.

“The remaining rhino population figures are roughly about 21 000 white rhino in the world, with 19 000 of them in South Africa. Black rhinos are however critically endangered with only 4 800 in the world and a mere 1 900 in South Africa.”

Ian Player Rhino Centre

Our passion for conservation and species preservation fuelled our ambition to inform and educate the public of the dangers faced by the rhino, and in 2012, Shamwari Game Reserve opened the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre.

Our passion for conservation and species preservation fuelled our ambition to inform and educate the public of the dangers faced by the rhino, and in 2012, Shamwari Game Reserve opened the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre.

Dr Ian Player sadly passed away on 30th November 2014, but his legacy and passion for animals lives on through his initiatives and ideology, carried by Shamwari Game Reserve. The Wilderness Foundation has created a unique rhino display at the Awareness Centre, to highlight the current rhino situation.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

One of our endeavours includes the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, which helps rescue, rehabilitate and care for sick, injured, abandoned, or orphaned animals under the care of our professional veterinary team. Once these animals have been nursed back to health, they are released back into their natural habitat.

We are currently caring for 3 white rhino orphans from various neighbouring game reserves. Two of the three were victims of poaching incidents as their mothers were killed. Their names are Noelle and Winston and are they inseparable! Chip is the newest calf in our care and has also been introduced to Noelle and Winston. He seems to be coping fairly well and is warming up to the other two rhinos. At Shamwari Game Reserve, we have an incredible and dedicated wildlife team that cares for these animals, as they need to be fed multiple times a day and their well-being is constantly monitored.

What We are Doing in the Eastern Cape in the Fight Against Rhino Poaching

Shamwari Security Manager, Rodney Visser, has some insight into the protection of our rhino and is a member of many associations in the Eastern Cape.

“We have one of the biggest APU teams in the Eastern Cape and Shamwari does not work in isolation because we are surrounded by rhino populated reserves.”

Our anti-poaching unit is always on patrol at Shamwari and on the look-out for any suspicious activity on neighbouring reserves such as Amakhala and Lalibela.

Rodney is also the Indalo Rhino Security Intelligence Coordinator, which most photographic game reserves in the Eastern Cape form a part of. They meet twice a year to discuss rhino security issues as well as conservation. Additionally, he is one of the founders of Wildlife Operations Group which is a body consisting of all heads of state entities consisting of conservation. There are two initiates with regard to rhino security. The one is an aircraft that is flown for anti-poaching patrols in the Eastern Cape, and the other is a vehicle that is out every day of the week as visible policing that will report any suspicious activity.

We also have Anja, who is a dedicated member of the Shamwari team that does animal monitoring. She constantly has eyes on our rhinos and locates them for the anti-poaching unit. She is crucial to their team and their strategy is heavily dependent on the information she provides.

We are working towards having a helicopter on site for the anti-poaching unit, as it is an ideal aircraft. In the fight against rhino poaching, Eastern Cape game reserves unite as the resources need to be combined to try and be a step ahead of the poachers at all times.