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MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO A SPECIES ON THE BRINK

Faced with a devastating exponential rise in illegal rhino poaching in South Africa, Rhinos Without Borders was formed in order to start moving these endangered animals away from the poaching hotspots to a safer environment.

Rhino poaching is at an all-time high in Africa and is increasing at an alarming rate. The illegal trade in rhino horn has seen the number of these magnificent creatures poached throughout Africa rise significantly in recent years. Since 2008, 6 102 rhinos have been poached in South Africa. With a rhino killed every eight hours, more of these African icons are now being lost to poachers every year than are being born. Rhinos Without Borders is a joint initiative between andBeyond and Great Plains Conservation, two leading conservation and tourism companies. The project aims to translocate 100 rhino from high-risk poaching areas in South Africa to the comparative safety of Botswana.

Where appropriate, the rhinos will be transported by air as opposed to road, in order to shorten the journey and lessen the amount of stress placed on the animals. The budget to translocate just one rhino is USD 45 000. The whole project, including ongoing and monitoring and security, requires a total budget of USD 4.5 million.

Botswana has been carefully selected for its extremely low poaching rates, thanks in part to its “no tolerance” policy when encountering potential threats. Each rhino, when translocated, will be fitted with specially design telemetry devices for ongoing research and monitoring purposes.

Recently, the dream became a reality when the first batch of rhino were successfully translocated from South Africa, by air, and safely released in their new habitat.  By taking action, Rhinos Without Borders has succeeded in moving rhinos from a high-risk poaching zone and significantly decreased the likelihood of these endangered animals being killed.

While we continue raising funds to meet the aims of the entire project, we are pleased to announce that sufficient money has been raised to move the next batch of rhino to a different, undisclosed destination within Botswana. These rhino will again be captured in South Africa before being translocated across the border to replenish the population.

ABOUT andBeyond & GREAT PLAINS CONSERVATION

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Great Plains Conservation was established to find the right formula of conservation, communities and commerce that would make a lasting, sustainable difference to the world’s iconic wildlife and wilderness areas.

Over the years we have witnessed the steady degradation of these natural treasures in spite of considerable efforts to protect them.

Our model takes stressed and threatened environments, surrounds them with compassionate protection and intelligent, sustainable management, and funds them with sensitive, low-volume, low-impact, tourism. Communities are an intrinsic part of this model and benefit directly from it. The final piece of the puzzle is our clients and guests – who pay to visit the camps we create, and through doing so, become our valued partners and agents of positive change.

Great Plains Conservation is first and foremost a conservation organisation that uses eco-tourism as a tool to sustain conservation programs.

Our philosophy is grounded in the fundamental appreciation of the good in life; good people, good staff, good decisions, good things we share and enjoy, but most of all we try to extend that “goodness” to our interactions with guests, with wildlife, with nature and with the local communities which so depend on them.

www.greatplainsconservation.com

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andBeyond is one of the world’s leading luxury experiential travel companies, designing personalised high-end tours in 15 countries in Africa, five in Asia and four in South America. The company also owns and operates 29 extraordinary safari lodges and camps, as well as set-departure expeditions, throughout Africa; which positively impact more than 9 million acres of wildlife land.

Established in 1991, andBeyond takes exceptional care of its guests in order to make a difference; its commitment to sustainable responsible travel, conservation and community empowerment has been globally recognised with multiple awards over the years. We offer warm local hospitality and sublime natural luxury that combine with interpretive natural experiences led by highly-skilled guides and rangers.

www.andbeyond.com

What is Rhinos Without Borders?

Rhinos Without Borders is a project of hope in which two like-minded conservation and travel companies, andBeyond and Great Plains Conservation, have joined forces in the fight against poaching to translocate 100 rhino from South Africa to the safe haven of Botswana. The aim is to create a viable breeding population of rhino in Botswana, thus broadening the gene pool and increasing the habitat for rhino in Africa, in this way spreading the risk.

Where are you moving them to?

The rhino are being placed in undisclosed secret locations in Botswana. The goal for Rhinos Without Borders is to place these animals in wildlife concessions and national parks throughout Botswana, letting them roam free. Although the animals’ movements are unhindered and they may move away from the original release locations, we will keep these locations confidential in order not to attract unwanted attention and raise security concerns.

Why Botswana?

Botswana currently has one of the lowest poaching rates in Africa where the country’s conservation officials are supported by an official anti-poaching unit, with a shoot to kill policy and political will from the top to help save rhinos.

Will it not just attract poaching to Botswana?

Poaching is likely to increase everywhere while there is demand for rhino horn. However, thanks to the reasons outlined above, Botswana currently provides some of the most protected and best habitat for rhinos. 

Will they all go to the same place?

No.

Why rhinos?

While rhino are only one of the species that is currently endangered through the risk of poaching, their numbers are being decimated particularly quickly. While the species has a vital role to play in the eco system, even more importantly, allowing them to go extinct will highlight a glaring gap in the natural balance. If we lose any of Africa’s iconic species we risk disturbing the natural balance of our eco system, like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.

Why are translocations so important?

Both andBeyond and Great Plains Conservation believe that translocations are a fundamental way to secure the ongoing survival of endangered species.

  • Rhino are taken from existing, high density populations that are attracting more and more poaching in South Africa and released in areas of Botswana that have fewer numbers of rhino and an excellent anti-poaching record.
  • By creating multiple populations of rhino in a number of geographic regions, we are making it harder for poachers to operate by having one concentrated population in one country.
  • By moving the rhino to Botswana, we are creating a few new breeding nuclei for the species to be distributed across the vast Botswanan landscapes. Having more than one viable breeding population of rhino helps diversify their gene pool and increase rhino breeding rate
  • Spreading the risk and increasing diversity of genes are the most common reasons for translocation but, in this case, there is a major third reason and that is to stimulate the growth of the rhino populations in Botswana. Presently the country has very low numbers of rhino and, although they are building up, it is sometimes difficult for mating pairs to even locate one another because of the low densities. In addition, it is a biological reality that the presence of new, younger males stimulates the females and energises the males because of competitions. All of this is much needed in Botswana.

What does this mean for the conservation of rhinos?

  • A story of hope for rhino, Rhinos Without Borders sees private companies working with the governments of two countries to benefit conservation.
  • It creates awareness that private sector companies can have a marked impact on conservation issues by working with government and that conservation is a shared responsibility that does not have to rest in governments’ hands alone.
  • It also serves as a success story to stimulate new projects, whether by members of the travel industry or the direct public. While it is true that rhino conservation faces critical challenges at the moment, we aim to stimulate the debate and believe many conservation situations can be changed if we all work together.
  • On a purely practical level, the initiative is also helping to increase the number of rhino in Botswana, assisting them in reaching their objective of growing the rhino population in the country.