The global COVID 19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the world’s economy, which has negatively impacted conservation. Organizations that supports rhino conservation in northwest Namibia such as Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), which provide critical field-based support to trackers and rhino rangers, have seen their budgets slashed by up to 30% as international donors have had to pass along cuts to their own budgets.
The knock-on effect in terms of job security, provisions for families and the protection of Namibia’s critically endangered black rhinos is potentially devastating for communities in the region that have worked hard to develop a rhino-based economy.
Adding to the pressure, tourism, which is a primary economic force in rural Namibia and contributes significantly to the cost of conservation, has been severely impacted. A number of areas within the Northwest Namibia rhino range have been left exposed by the lack of tourists, requiring extra patrolling efforts by SRT, IRDNC and Conservancy Rhino Rangers, together with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), law enforcement officials and private sector partners. Filing this gap requires increased resources at a time when conservation funding is being slashed.
With a donation of 1,000 ounces of gold by B2Gold, the launch of the B2Gold Rhino Gold Bar in January 2020 and the subsequent sale of 600 bars to local buyers, the B2Gold Rhino Gold Bar Advisory Committee has responded to the crisis.
The initiative supports to keep rangers from all 13 rhino range communal conservancies in the northwest in the field for the next 12 months, including the following conservancies: Anabeb, Otjikondavirongo, Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka, Sesfontein, Puros, //Huab, Doro !nawas, Tsiseb, Sorris Sorris, Uibasen, and #Khoadi Hoas; salaries and support for field staff from SRT and IRDNC that is crucial to ensure adequate patrol levels are maintained in order to keep the poaching pressure at bay and sustain population growth; funding for at least one field trip with regional Traditional Authorities in 2020 to raise awareness of the importance of black rhino conservation; funding to upgrade the communications system that links field teams and base camp and is fundamentally important to ensure rapid reaction time to crisis situations.
Within four months of the launch of the B2Gold Rhino Gold Bar, the project has disbursed N$3 million to community-backed rhino conservation efforts. This donation is in keeping with MEFT efforts to support community-based conservation through the Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilient Facility.
B2Gold company stated that when the Rhino Gold Bar is launched in North America, additional funds will be raised to provide long-term sustainable funding to community-backed rhino conservation in the Kunene region, ensuring that the conservation-based economy, for which Namibia is world-famous continues to be viable.