With International Rhino Day on 22nd September, the continued focus on saving the rhino and raising funds in order to do this successfully is in the spotlight.The MyPlanet Rhino Fund, which is administered by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), was established in March 2011 and supports best-practice and critical funding requirements in rhino conservation.

With the combined support of more than 30 000 MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cardholders R1,318 million has been raised for the MyPlanet Rhino Fund in the last year. The unique difference is that these funds were raised without requiring any donations from the supporters; funds are contributed on their behalf when supporters use their cards at partner stores.  

South Africans who support Rhino conservation initiatives or who make donations want to see exactly how their money is spent to make a meaningful difference in the race to save the rhino. Braam Malherbe, MyPlanet Ambassador, conservationist and member of the MyPlanet Rhino Fund says: “Know where your money is going when donating to various rhino causes so that you can be sure it directly benefits rhino conversation! With the MyPlanet Rhino Fund you can know that funds are administered by a panel of independent parties who are experts in the field.”

Over the last few months the money raised by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund has gone towards several rhino conservation projects. Here is feedback on four of them:

SVC: Supporting the Special Species Protection Unit

The Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC) was established in 1991 from land that had previously comprised privately owned cattle ranches. With one of the primary purposes of SVC being conservation of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, all internal fences were removed to create one large wilderness area (comprising 3442 km2).

SVC is now a large scale cooperatively managed wilderness area.  Each ranch has its own anti-poaching scouts but, as the poaching of black rhino escalated, an additional Special Species Protection Unit was formed in 2010 to cover the whole conservancy. 

The MyPlanet Rhino Fund’s donation plays a central role in supporting the Special Species Protection Unit who have been able to maintain SVC as a stronghold.

The Black Mamba All-Woman Anti Poaching Unit

When poachers started targeting Balule Nature Reserve's rhino and general wildlife they initiated the Black Mamba All-Woman Anti PoachingUnit. Twenty-six young women from the surrounding agricultural and tribal lands underwent extensive training for six weeks and were equipped and deployed in five picket stations within Balule - spanning both sides of the Olifants River. 

The Black Mambas patrol the hot spots, occupy observation posts, conduct routine searches and roadblocks and gather information that allows for early detection of poachers and crime prevention.

The donation from MyPlanet helped with the construction and upgrading of the picket sites, deployment and transportation, equipment and uniforms as well as monthly food rations.

SANParks: Cybertracker

South African National Parks (SANParks) collectively protects about 43,059 km2 of the country in 19 different national parks in very different habitats. Several of these parks are involved in rhino conservation. The focus of the MyPlanet contribution to SANParks rhino conservation was in the acquisition of palm-top data capture computers to facilitate routine rhino and conservation monitoring in Addo Elephant National Park.

Monitoring is an integral part of rhino conservation, because without detailed knowledge of where animals are and how they are performing, one cannot direct other strategic interventions to protect them from the escalating rhino poaching threat.  The software employed in the palm-top computers also allows rangers to use them in a constructive way for park management and scientific research. 

Southern African Wildlife College

A recent trip to Holland by a team from SAWC was partly funded by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund. The trip included visits to six universities and various other organisations working on developing technology for location devices in order to assist with the detection of poachers.

Following the trip a workshop with the relevant technological partners was hosted in South Africa, aimed at development of technology as well as other tactical devices in the anti-poaching effort. 

Since the approach to anti-poaching effort has attracted such interest and the requirement for technology has increased exponentially, the trip to Holland sparked a lot of activity to develop equipment aimed at speedy and accurate law enforcement within conservation. The continuation of this development underpins the value of the initial visit to the Holland.

To support and make a meaningful difference to existing rhino conservation programmes, get your free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card now and select the MyPlanet Rhino Fund. Apply online at www.myschool.co.za or call 0860 100 445.