WHAT DO rhino MONITORING OFFICERS DO?
Know the area
The rhino monitors know a vast area of 2,000 km sq incredibly well. They have a map of the local area in their heads featuring every landmark, tree and water body. They even know where the best grass and browse is for the rhinos.
Find the rhinos
The monitoring teams are highly trained and able to find the rhinos through skilful tracking and bush craft. That doesn’t mean the rhinos make their job easy – they often rest up on densely vegetated islands during the heat of the day and are very hard to find.
File daily reports
With each rhino sighting, the officers fill out a data sheet about the body condition (which ranges from 5 for ‘fat’ to 1 for ‘of concern’) and behaviour of the individual.
Watch out for fights
They keep an eye on fighting between rhino bulls, since there’s a chance of injury or even death, especially between two big, evenly matched individuals. By knowing where each established bull’s territory is located, we can avoid introducing any new bulls to the same area and thus decrease the risk of conflict.
Take to the skies
Every few days, the officers undertake aerial surveillance to locate the rhinos and ensure they haven’t wandered off too far. They also look for abnormal behaviour that might indicate poaching in the area.
Know the RHINOS
They know all the rhinos in their area as individuals. They know their histories and personalities, and understand each one’s movements and preferences.
Monitor rhino activity
They record what the rhinos are eating and where, their monthly and seasonal feeding patterns, and whether they are socialising or mating with other rhinos. This helps us to predict when calves are due.
Spot the signs
They study the female rhinos’ behaviour closely to identify when there is a new arrival. A new calf, especially a female, is an important addition to the breeding population.
Study species interactions
The rhino monitors also study the relationships between rhinos and other herbivores, such as zebras, and predators, such as lions and hyenas. It’s important to understand how the presence of predators impacts on the rhinos, and if large numbers pose a threat to calves.
Spread the word
The monitoring teams take pride in what they do and help to spread the word about conservation. They visit local communities and talk to them them about the rhinos and how important they are for the country and the economy. They warn them about poachers and the government’s hard line on poaching.
there's still so much more to dO
By collecting all this data, the monitoring teams help RCB to build an incredible body of knowledge about the rhinos. This helps us to look after the rhinos even better.
As Botswana’s rhino population increases, we need to increase our number of monitoring teams to maintain this level of meticulous data gathering and vigilance over a much larger area.
Each new pair of officers will need a vehicle and all the necessary equipment to carry out their responsibilities safely and successfully. Can you help?