Rhino project to boost community

A commitment to conservation – achieved through a unique collaboration – will see people from various backgrounds in the Eastern Cape benefit from a critically important conservation project involving the endangered black rhino.
A commitment to conservation – achieved through a unique collaboration – will see people from various backgrounds in the Eastern Cape benefit from a critically important conservation project involving the endangered black rhino.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A commitment to conservation – achieved through a unique collaboration – will see people from various backgrounds in the Eastern Cape benefit from a critically important conservation project involving the endangered black rhino.

A group of private landowners in Bathurst, the Yendella community, comprising 25 families, and the Eastern Cape government have joined hands to form the Silver Waters Association – a signatory to an exciting custodianship agreement for 20 black rhinos.

The first black rhino custodianship site in the province was celebrated at a dinner hosted by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) near East London on Saturday.

The privately owned area of about 10,000ha, held by four landowners, makes up the Buffalo Kloof Game Reserve.

It has already been converted from traditional farming to conservation, wildlife ranching and hunting, and was recently declared a protected site.

The community land has been bought by Bhisho and is being transferred to the Yendella community.

The community has, in turn, registered the land as the Sikhululekile Co-op and runs cattle and practises small-scale agriculture there.

The good relationship between the private landowners and the Yendella community is what laid the foundation for the project.

From the outset the community expressed interest in taking part and agreed to the incorporation of about 550ha of land at a monthly rental of R7,000.

Because that section of land is primarily dense bush and steep slopes, it was in any event unsuitable for farming.

Instead, the monthly lease will provide the community with an immediate benefit and a steady income stream, which can be used as working capital to develop and farm the rest of the property, which is good agricultural land.

The state land, meanwhile, comprises about 1,300ha of the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve, managed by the ECPTA.

Together, this land makes up a single parcel of about 12,000ha and it is here that the rhino will be introduced.

Environmental affairs MEC Mlungisi Mvoko said the site had the potential to develop into a provincially significant rhino conservation project.

He said it had a good black rhino habitat, willing landowners, was large enough to support a reasonable end population of rhino, and was in a position to receive animals throughout the year, with further potential for expansion.

The 20 black rhinos will be provided by the ECPTA on a custodianship basis, and will remain the agency’s property.

Any calves that result from the arrangement will, however, belong to the Silver Waters Association.

The private landowners will monitor and protect the new rhino population at their own cost, while capture and translocation costs will be covered by the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which helped facilitate the agreement.

The agreement also states:

● The rhino offspring that accrue to the Buffalo Kloof Custodianship Project are to be divided equally and 50% of any revenue that accrues from the sale of these animals will go to the Yendella community;

● The remaining 50% will be used for rhino monitoring and security; and

● The Buffalo Kloof Game Reserve will employ and train at least two members from the Yendella community as part of the anti-poaching unit.

“The project meshes well with land restitution and has a unique way of [supporting] the Yendella community,” Mvoko said.

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