We are exhausted. In collaboration with government, Rhinos without Borders and Wilderness Safaris, Rhino Conservation Botswana has just completed a large operation to dart and tag previously untagged wild rhinos in the Okavango Delta. Over the past week, the team has darted rhinos and fitted each rhino with a tracking device as well as taking body measurements and a DNA sample, as well as clipping ear notches onto the rhinos ears which serve as easy to identify unique identification marks. The team, which was made up of vets, ground staff and skilled pilots moved all over the Okavango Delta, working on several different rhino populations. Once a rhino is located by the fixed wing aircraft they call in the GPS location to the helicopter and the ground teams. Each operation then takes place with speed and precision. The helicopter takes off with the vets and moves in to dart the rhino from the helicopter. Once the rhino is darted the helicopter lands nearby the sleeping rhino and the vets and the ground team move in quickly to monitor the rhinos vital signs and work on the rhino for about fifteen minutes, before marking it with a large white cross on its back, waking it up and moving rapidly away. Well done to all for this successful operation which now makes it easier for us to track these precious animals and keep them safe.
The Okavango Delta is a beautiful wildlife area recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pulsing wetland that owes its existence to the Okavango River which flows down from the Angolan Highlands and floods annually into the harsh dry Kalahari Desert. These flood waters reach the Delta between March and June each year, peaking in July to create an oasis in an otherwise dry country, and attracting great migrations of game. When the floods recede, the summer rains arrive and this perennial Garden of Eden remains a year-round paradise for wildlife. Yet this balance can be upset by drought, and it looks like we are heading into difficult times. Summer rainfall has been well below average and temperatures have soared, resulting in pans and normally perennial rivers drying out. Sadly, it looks like the floods this year are also due to fail as there has been very low rainfall in the Okavango catchment in Angola. These dry conditions are opening up the vegetation of the Delta and posing a risk to our rhinos. The rhinos are moving in search of food and water and wandering into high risk poaching areas. We have been kept very busy bringing them back into the core zone - and believe us it is quite a task to move two tons of wild animal! But that is what we do here at Rhino Conservation Botswana, we keep a close eye on the precious wild rhinos of the Okavango Delta, keeping them as safe as possible.
Our Board of Trustees field trip this year focused on our work with the communities who live in and around wildlife areas in the Okavango. RCB works with these communities to improve their livelihoods and to build trusting relationships that can withstand the threat of poaching interests. It is our profound conviction that local people should understand the value that rhinos and their habitat can bring to their communities, feel a sense of national pride in the rhinos, and see themselves as active participants in conservation efforts. With this attitude, these communities become RCB’s eyes and ears on the ground, protecting the country’s rhinos.
Rhino Conservation Botswana put smiles on the faces of softball players in Mochudi, a large village in Botswana, by sponsoring the prizes for a softball tournament attended by seven schools from four districts across Botswana. The theme “Keep the Five Alive” was observed and Sedibelo Junior Secondary School gave a presentation on the five rhino species across the world and their Red List Status. The tournament ran over two days and RCB Director, Map Ives, and the head of our Community Engagement Programme, Mary Hastag, attended the finals to hand out the well-deserved prizes. The high energy of the tournament was linked in with the pride of protecting Botswana’s precious rhinos.
A big congratulations and thank you to team rhino - Serena Scott, Kathy Ives, Sophie Wren, Emily Reay and Alastair Rimmer (AKA Molly the Rhino). These stalwart RCB supporters ran the London Marathon on the 28 April in support of rhino conservation. It was a fun but challenging day for all of our runners and we greatly appreciate every sore knee and blister gained in support of wild rhinos in Botswana. Finishing the London Marathon is a feat on its own, but running dressed as a large rhino really takes this challenge to another level. Challenge accepted – Alistair crossed the finish line looking impressively upbeat and Molly the rhino was an absolute sensation - we hope to see her back in action again next year! All proceeds raised by the team will be used to support RCB’s work on the ground to ensure a future for wild rhino in Botswana and to protect rhinos from extinction.
Stand a chance to win an 11-night safari of a lifetime and help us save the rhino from extinction! Safarifootprints is raffling an unforgettable luxury Okavango Delta safari in aid of Rhino Conservation Botswana. Four beautiful properties - Chobe Game Lodge, Mapula Lodge, Sanctuary Baines Camp and Jack’s Camp have donated in support of our cause. The safari, for two people, is valued at USD 30,000 and raffle tickets costs USD 500 each. There are a limited number of tickets so don’t miss out. Find out more and purchase a ticket here.
Today is World Rhino Day and an excellent opportunity to celebrate all you’ve helped us to achieve since this time last year. Here’s are some of our greatest moments from the past 12 months…
1 We were invited to the wedding of the century
Our director Map Ives and Botswana Trustee Kai Collins were lucky enough to receive two of the hottest tickets in the world when they were invited to the wedding of our royal patron, HRH Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. So began one of the busiest media weeks in RCB’s history. Map appeared on a Canadian news programme, on BBC One’s live coverage of the wedding (here he is, chatting to Anita Rani) and on CNN talking about The Duke’s patronage of RCB. He also won the grand title of ‘Beard of the Wedding” from commentator Huw Edwards!
2 Our monitoring officers excelled themselves
Our monitoring officers are the best in Botswana, operating to the highest standards with unparalleled dedication and determination. In 12 months, they cover on average 33,331km in vehicles and on foot, clock up 3,270 monitoring hours over 593 monitoring days, record detailed descriptions of over 859 different rhino sightings, and every team tracks down on average 1.5 rhinos each day. We’re so proud of them!
3 We brought home every rhino that wandered off
Our rhinos love the fresh green growth that comes with a spot of rain. It gives them itchy feet and they start to roam, particularly younger individuals about four to seven years old. This is perfectly natural, but sometimes rhinos wander a bit too far away from our ‘core zone’ for comfort. They may even move into areas that are not as safe as we would like. So when this happens, we send veterinarians, helicopters, huge trucks and rhino crates to wherever the rhinos are roaming to capture them and bring them home again.
4 We got a new toy to help watch over our rhinos
In November, we became the proud owner of a shiny new Aviat Husky A-1C plane. This versatile and nimble little aircraft is specially designed for getting in and out of hard-to-access places, so it's perfect for helping us to monitor rhinos that sensibly like to live somewhere totally inaccessible by vehicle. There is no escaping the eyes in the skies when it comes to keeping Botswana’s rhinos safe.
5 We cheered on our amazing supporters
Four of our fittest and most fantastic supporters ran the Virgin Money London Marathon 2018 for RCB and for wild rhinos – and we were with them (almost) every step of the way. Paul Swart and Pierre Collins (above), Linda Dickens and Jamie Barnes exceeded all expectations when they finished the 26.2 mile race around the streets of London on one of the hottest days of the year. And we were there, at mile 23, to cheer them to the finish line.
6 We went high tech to spy on our rhinos and keep them safe
We started working with Oxford University’s WildCRU and the Born Free Foundation’s Remembering Rhinos initiative to increase our rhinos’ security. The three-year Okavango Delta Carnivore Survey is helping us to monitor the rhinos’ health and movements, while the installation of an intelligent network of 50 state-of-the-art camera traps will help us to maintain constant surveillance of areas where there is a risk of conflict with people.
7 We launched our community upliftment programme
Our new community development programme assists local women living in extremely rural areas in the Okavango Delta to develop new sustainable livelihoods – to support themselves, their families and their communities. Our ‘Women for Rhinos’ groups are given sewing machines and materials, and taught to produce quality artisanal crafts that RCB helps the ladies to sell.
8 We began teaching local children to value nature
We rolled out Environmental Clubs in five primary schools in the area. The clubs educate young people about their local wildlife and the importance of protecting the environment. They create learning opportunities that help young minds to grow in fun and creative ways (don’t miss your free rhino tracking board game). And they will soon take school groups into local national parks to see Botswana’s most amazing wildlife for themselves.
9 We created employment for young men and women
Our new ‘Community Mobilisers’ scheme employs local young people to support our outreach activities in their communities. They get people talking about conservation, support our women’s groups, watch for bush fires, organise our play days for toddlers and run our feeding scheme for under-nourished children whose parents have to work in the city.
We’re also creating opportunities for the many young people who are unemployed in rural villages around the Okavango Delta by training and equipping them to maintain the buffalo or veterinary fence, a vital barrier between wildlife and cattle.
10 We hatched an ambitious plan to build a Rhino Education Centre
RCB is planning to build a Rhino Education & Visitor Centre in the centre of Maun. The Centre will house RCB’s headquarters and provide a vital space where everyone involved in protecting Botswana’s rhinos can come together to plan joined-up conservation activities. It will also serve as a facility to educate, inform and inspire local communities, school children and tourists. We can’t wait.
As you can see, we’ve been really busy since the last World Rhino Day. None of this would have been possible without you, our incredible supporters. Please help us to keep protecting Botswana’s rhinos so that, long term, rhinos might beat extinction. Please donate whatever you can today. Every penny goes to the projects listed above.
Did you know that black rhinos are couch potatoes? They like to stay in one place and not move around too much. Well, why would they? Thanks to our tiny termite architects, the rhinos can enjoy an idyllic existence on the many termite islands that stud the Okavango Delta.
Camera trap images provide an unobtrusive glimpse into the secret lives of animals. These incredible pictures, taken one misty morning, show not one but two leopards, AND a critically endangered black rhino only metres apart. See these amazing images here…
RCB's dedicated team is on-call 24/7. So when reports of an injured rhino came in late on Saturday evening, we rallied the troops and were ready to track down the animal at dawn the next day.
Map Ives recalls the excitement of seeing one of the first white rhino calves born in the Delta. An experience only topped by seeing that calf again – now a magnificent young bull – in April. Read about this incredible reunion here…
Savas, one of RCB’s two new rhino protection dogs, recently passed a critical phase in his training when he took his first helicopter flight ahead of his deployment to Botswana this summer.
When black and white rhinos are relocated to Botswana, these pioneering individuals are understandably keen to learn about their new home and often roam around, covering great distances, before settling down. Find out what happens when one of them wanders off into trouble...
Four people are about to do something that’s either totally crazy or totally awesome, depending on your point of view. They’re going to run the Virgin Money London Marathon for Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB) and for wild rhinos. Join them on their journey...
2017 has been a year of mixed fortunes for rhinos. Though RCB is achieving more for rhino conservation in Botswana than we ever thought possible, elsewhere the number of rhinos being killed is still alarmingly high.
That’s why RCB’s work in Botswana is more important than ever. For the rhinos’ security, I can’t share the number of young born this year, but we’re proud that Botswana’s rhino numbers are increasing steadily. When other populations are in decline, every precious rhino calf is a cause for celebration – and a vital contribution to the world’s population.
Read more about our rhino successes in 2017...
Earlier this year, a great thing happened – a local man called Kane Motswana decided to walk the length of the Okavango Delta for rhino conservation. Join him on his incredible journey...
Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB) is the proud owner of a shiny green and tan Aviat Husky A-1C plane. This versatile and nimble little aircraft is specially designed for getting in and out of hard-to-access places, so it's perfect for helping us to monitor and protect Botswana's rhinos across the vast and sometimes inaccessible wetlands of the Okavango Delta.
In August, Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB) completed a whirlwind operation to fit tracking devices on white rhinos living in the Okavango Delta, in order to keep these precious animals safe.
The intense three-day operation was carried out by a small, but highly skilled team, and included a few surprises...
Two very special puppies have been selected for a pioneering role with Rhino Conservatin Botswana (RCB). The malinois (or Belgian shepherd) pups will be the first canines to work as wildlife guardians in northern Botswana, helping to deter poachers and keep wildlife safe.