World Rhino day took place on the 22nd of September. The day was first celebrated by WWF South Africa in 2010. Since then the world has followed suit to spread awareness to help save the five species of rhino.
Namibia is home to the largest population of free roaming black rhino in the world. The exact number is kept a closely guarded secret by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism as part of the strategy to combat wildlife crime. The Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, the Hounorable Bernadette Jagger, marked the day in Khorixas at a large gathering of youth groups.
Her message was to call for conservation NGOs, including Save the Rhino Trust, to continue their good work to help conserve one of the world’s most iconic species. She said: “Communities and traditional authorities have a big role to play to make sure that people are aware and help to combat wildlife crime.”
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Namibia Nature Foundation were the main sponsors of the event, which was mainly organised to create awareness amongst communities and inspire them to understand that they play a vital and positive role in the protection and survival of our rhinos, which are currently under threat because of poaching for rhino horn.
The theme for this year, “keep the five alive” refers to the existing five rhino species around the world, which are the Greater One-horned Rhino, Javan, Sumatran and the White and Black Rhino found in Southern Africa. These species are currently classified as vulnerable to endangered, with others already extinct. Like the mammoths that once roamed the earth, predecessors of the modern elephant, the rhino may one day face the same fate. The sad truth is, two thirds of the world’s rhino species could be lost in our lifetime due to loss of habitat, but mainly because of poaching by criminal syndicates supplying rhino horn to Asia, where it is believed to have curative properties.
The event was specifically targeted at youth through various activities. Learners from two local schools engaged in a thought-provoking debate for and against the burning of confiscated rhino horns. Other activities took place, including cultural dances, music performances from local artists, and a soccer match to entertain the crowds and to make sure that this was a memorable day with good lessons to take away.
Namibia is home to black and white rhino, and their survival remains dependent upon community vigilance, protection, and law enforcement. In 2014 Save the Rhino and rhino rangers together with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism introduced stronger anti-poaching activities. Police and the Namibian Defence Force have been deployed to assist conservation NGOs and communities. In the past 12 months no rhinos have been reported at poached.