In 2016, 1 054 rhino were poached in South Africa. Although this number has reduced from the 2015 figures of 1 175, there has been a major increase in poaching incidents in KwaZulu-Natal. According to the organisation Stop Rhino Poaching, there have been 119 rhino deaths in KZN in the first five and a half months of 2017. This statistic is unofficial because South African Environmental Minister Molewa has decided to stop regular reporting of official poaching statistics to the public. Despite the discouraging statistics, Somkhanda can happily boast a zero poaching rate for 2016, as reported in the previous update.
Somkhanda has also had 3 exciting additions to the reserve. On the 17 May 2017 a pride of three lion (1 male and 2 female) arrived at their new home on Somkhanda. The pride came from AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve as part of their lion management strategy and was supported by Different.org and Empowers Africa and inspired by a feature documentary – Blood Lions™.
When the lion arrived at Somkhanda they were moved into a boma where they will stay for a period of around 10 weeks in order for the pride to bond and become acclimatised to their new surroundings. They will then be released into the greater reserve where they can roam freely over approximately 12 000 ha.
As with the buffalo and elephants that have already been introduced to Somkhanda, introducing lion means that the reserve will be repopulated with all of the naturally occurring larger species and will help to restore the ecological balance. The reserve will now be able to boast Big 5 status which will assist its stature within the tourism sector and ultimately contribute to KZN conservation and biodiversity targets. “Having Big 5 status will benefit the community and boost tourism and investment”, said David Gilroy, Wildlands’ Strategic Manager of Conservation.
Nathi Gumbi, a member of the Gumbi tribe (the community that runs Somkhanda) and Wildlands’ Strategic Manager for Community Engagement (Northern KZN) said, “As a person who has been involved with the Somkhanda Game Reserve project since inception, I speak not only for myself but for the Gumbi community as a whole. We are very happy about the lions coming to Somkhanda. The community feels privileged that the reserve is now going to be a Big Five reserve as our dream is now a reality. It has been a long journey with a lot of effort from Wildlands, the Emvokweni Community Trust as well as the various partners involved. The Gumbi community are pioneers in their own right and this is evidence that community engagement can yield positive and inspiring results.” Thanks to partner support, special fencing and a meticulous lion management plan have been implemented for the safety of nearby communities.
The Somkhanda rhino population is doing well. In May, two of our black rhino were dehorned, and one of them received an UHF ankle collar for tracking purposes. The UHF frequency of the collar is picked up by a central repeater on the reserve. This information is then collated and fed to the rhino monitoring team and reserve management to ensure efficient deployment of resources. As you are aware, the constant threat of poaching means that both tracking collars and dehorning of the rhino are of supreme importance in Somkhanda.
Hope is doing really well and enjoying being in his own space. He spends most of his time on the top of the hills, and wanders down to find water. Although some of the female white rhinos have moved back into the same area as him, he still tends to keep to himself.
After Maddi's mother had her new calf, Maddi was forced to move away and find her own way. It seemed like Maddi was doing well on her own. However, unusually for a black rhino, Maddi has managed to get back to her mother and stay with her a lot of the time. The rangers find Maddi and her mom together often.
We remain continually grateful to our Adopt a Rhino supporters and what they enable at Somkhanda. Without you, the work that is done in Somkhanda Game Reserve to protect these national treasures would be unable to continue.
The Wildlands Team