Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Steven Segang, Highveld Community Projects Officer, African Crane Conservation Programme


World Wetlands Day, marked annually on 2 February, is an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. A great deal of our work at the EWT involves the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we celebrate World Wetlands Day accordingly.

The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP) is very active in the wetlands of Mpumalanga, which is a province with an abundance of grasslands. Mpumalanga’s grasslands are bisected by thousands of wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide include their ability to improve water quality and contribute to the maintenance of base flows in rivers. They also provide critical habitats to a number of threatened species of animals and plants in the province, including our three species of cranes.


Mpumalanga is the first province in the country (and second in the world) to officially declare a Provincial Grassland Week to be held annually during the last week of February. As most of Mpumalanga’s wetlands occur in its grasslands, and because of the fact that grasslands and wetlands share certain characteristics and dependencies, it was decided that Mpumalanga will celebrate Grassland Week annually in combination with Wetlands Day, branded as Mpumalanga’s Twin Treasures (MTT). Grasslands and wetlands are two of the province’s greatest treasures. When healthy grasslands and wetlands join forces, they are responsible for essential biodiversity and some of the most important ecosystem services, such as drought and flood mitigation, contributing to climate stability, groundwater replenishment, and water purification. These are vital for the environment, man and economic development.

The first MTT was commemorated in 2014 and each year there is a theme attached to the celebration. This year’s theme is “Ecosystems for Life,” which focuses on grasslands and wetlands and the services they provide to humankind and living organisms. It was also emphasised that as this year is dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, the messages should be aligned with his commitment to improving human life. The celebrations will be held at Delmas this year, on 8 February and the EWT looks forward to participating. Plans for school Wetlands Day celebrations are also in place, and an excursion will be undertaken with Kwachibikulu Primary in February. In line with the theme, activities will include MiniSASS and food chain examples, to demonstrate to learners how we are all connected in life and the importance of having a balance in an ecosystem.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Threatened Amphibian Programme will join the ACCP in hosting a stand focused on biodiversity and wetlands at the Greater Edendale Mall World Wetlands Day event on 2 February.

Thanks to Liberty NPO, SAEON, the KZN Wetlands Forum, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, and the International Crane Foundation for making this work possible.

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ChitterChatter – February 2018

At the end of 2017, as is tradition in the EWT, the ~95 staff members of the EWT convened for our annual Conservation Week, this time in the homely little town of Parys. The week is an opportunity for our team, which is normally spread across the vastness of our beautiful country and several of our neighbours, to share stories, knowledge and experiences; socialise and team build; and strategise for the year ahead. A favourite on the EWT calendar, the 2017 Week did not disappoint and great memories were made for everyone. Memories were also shared, and some of the most special moments of 2017 were captured by our numerous intrepid photographers and film-makers and compiled into a heart-warming, hilarious and inspirational video by Ian Little – a slightly sanitised version of which is available for our members and partners to enjoy watching here.

The nature of the EWT’s work is to be in the field, making a difference where it matters the most. As a result, video footage of spectacular landscapes and exhilarating wildlife often makes for jealous office staff, whose offices do not vaguely resemble pristine beaches, rolling hills or Big Five reserves. However, the tiny gems of wildlife that still exist in our urban environments are not be overlooked or cast aside. In Johannesburg, we are surrounded by millions of trees that are home to thousands of birds, insects, reptiles and small mammals. If you just open your eyes and ears, you will be astounded to see who shares out city with us!

I had a wonderful family move into the tree outside my office window in November. A Hadeda Ibis couple built their (very rickety and unsafe looking) nest in the highest branches (my office is on the top floor) of a Water Pear (Syzygium guineese) tree and in time, had produced three large, speckled eggs. During the December break, either one or all of the eggs hatched, and if the latter, something happened to two of the chicks. Because when I returned in January, I was greeted by the clicking sound of one very hungry, fluffy young Hadeda balancing precariously on an increasingly insecure collection of sticks held together by bird poo and not much else. Throughout the month, the parents of this gangly creature took turns to watch over it or collect its food. Despite gale force winds, hailstorms and torrential rains, the little fluffball held on for dear life and it was with trepidation that I arrived at work every day to gingerly peer out of my window and see if he was still alive. By gingerly, I mean creeping up to the window, as, practically from birth, it was clear that mom and pop Hadeda had instilled in their chick a mortal terror of human beings and a hissing, fluffing of wings and an open beak to scare me was what greeted me if they even vaguely saw my shadow appear. This made me sad.


As Mother Nature is all-powerful, the survival skills of this little chick were remarkable and reminded me again of how natural resilience exists in so many species whilst human beings appear to be far needier and less happy with a bed of sticks and a diet of grubs.

I learned a lot from my own “field experience” that I too can share, so it is not just my staff working with Wild Dogs or cranes that have cool stories. Lessons from the Hadeda family:

  1. The bond between a mother and her child, of almost any animal, is unique, powerful, all prevailing and should garner respect from all humans. It is not just humans who will die for their young, and whose sole purpose is to protect, teach and develop their offspring. We should respect that a LOT more in our fellow species.
  2. Wild animals naturally distrust and fear humans. With good reason no doubt. We should not simply accept that as our right as apex predators, and we should never exploit that fear. Instead, we should learn to be more humble about the fact that we are the MOST feared species on earth. By everyone.
  3. Life is about a few simple rules. Food and water, shelter, parental love and protection, learning, and growing. If we don’t grow, we die. Interpret that in a number of ways.
  4. Take only that which you need. And live lightly. Despite Hadedas sometimes reusing old nests, my neighbour’s home finally succumbed to the ravages of a Gauteng thunderstorm and there is now almost no sign at all that any life even existed on those branches. Fortunately, fluffball was sitting further along the branches at the time and seemed to have moved out by then.
  5. Focus on what we have and what can do in the future. I will never know what happened to the other two eggs/chicks, or if the Hadeda parents lamented their loss, but I am guessing that the full time job it was to raise one healthy, strong and demanding youngster was all that they could manage and more than kept their days busy. Darwinian theories aside, we need to trust in the future that we are building and not stay hung up on the past.
  6. Above all, look around you. See life through the eyes of others; appreciate other animals’ risks, threats, fears, needs, aspirations and their role in building a colourful and thriving world. Give more than you take.

The photo that I managed to get is particularly bad as I was creeping in the dark around the back end of my window, but it’s a tribute to the little squawker that is probably yelling outside your window right now and may be annoying you as only a Hadeda can. But I love that sound now. For the little bit of field that was brought into my top story office, no matter how less glamourous than a Cheetah he may have been. Nature is all around us, aren’t we blessed! And he may even make into the next edition of the EWT’s Conservation Week video tribute at the of this year!

Thank you for all your emails and comments received on these newsletters, please keep them coming.




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The Endangered Wildlife Trust responds to the latest report on rhino poaching figures


The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) appreciates the recent statement by Minister Edna Molewa on the latest rhino poaching figures, and is pleased to note the reported decline in rhinos illegally killed, from 1,054 in 2016 to 1,028 in 2017. We applaud all those who have worked tirelessly to protect our rhinos. However, we remain concerned about the very high poaching rate and what this means for the future of rhinos in South Africa. The EWT is committed to continuing to work with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and other stakeholders to save our rhinos from the scourge of poaching.

Noteworthy is the reference in the Minister’s report to the collaboration between the various Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster departments. There has been an increase in arrests, from 417 in 2016 to 445 in 2017, inside and adjacent to the Kruger National Park, and we would trust that the Minister will elaborate in time as to whether this is as a result of increased enforcement capacity and intelligence-driven operations, or a sign of increasing incursions into the park. It would also be useful to establish how many of the 220 weapons that were seized were used in other crimes in South Africa, and whether ballistics will be carried out to determine this.

It is disheartening to note the number of officials implicated in rhino-related crimes, but it is promising that corrupt officials are being identified and action is being taken. The arrests of 16 level three to four (courier/local buyers and exporters) criminal syndicates is record-breaking and a critical step in the right direction towards dismantling these highly organised criminals. The EWT applauds the National Prosecuting Authority on the many successful cases that have been prosecuted during 2017, with generally good sentencing outcomes.

Although it is reassuring that rhino horn contraband is being detected at ports of exit, there remains the concern that there may be much more rhino horn contraband that is not detected and is leaving our borders. The evidence suggests that many smugglers are still prepared to take the risk at OR Tambo International Airport, and benchmarking against the measures in place at other international airports is in order.

Given the very nature of wildlife trafficking, it is encouraging to see progress is being made on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mozambique, and to see that a new MoU is in place with Zimbabwe. However, the EWT believes that more transnational operations and investigations, particularly with South East Asian countries, are necessary – only then can we start apprehending level one and two criminal syndicates, which will almost certainly interrupt the illegal trade of rhino horn.

We gratefully acknowledge the Minister’s recognition of the success of a project that, through a strategic partnership between the EWT and the DEA, and funded through the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement United States Department as well the Global Environmental Facility, saw 1,273 rangers trained. They are now registered as Grade Five Environmental Management Inspectors. This was a nationwide project, led by the EWT, which covered South African National Parks as well as provincial protected areas, and was made up of 78 training courses.

The joint partnership patrol optimisation project, in the same partnership led by the EWT and funded by the same donors, was equally successful, as reported by the Minister. This was initiated in January 2016, through a collaboration with the all-female Black Mamba anti-poaching unit and subsequently expanded to another five state protected areas across Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State and Eastern Cape provinces. Through the patrol optimisation project, we have distributed 70 smart phones to be used for data collection using situational awareness technology developed by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). We have also assisted one state protected area with the procurement of a digital radio system that links into the CSIR system.

The EWT is both proud and humbled to have contributed to the many strides made against rhino poaching in the past year. However, there is still much work to be done, and we remain committed to working closely with our partners and other role-players to overcome this major threat to one of Africa’s most iconic species.



Adam Pires

Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398



Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert

Head of Conservation

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398



Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398


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Buffer zone rehabilitation at Rugezi marsh

Most threats to nature and wildlife sustainability are anthropogenic mainly resulting from drastic increase in population size. This implies increased pressure on land use which leads to the reduction and modification of natural areas, resulting in the extinction or threat of extinction to wildlife species and natural areas which serve as their habitats. Grey Crowned Cranes, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum are found in Eastern and Southern Africa. They have faced a dramatic decline over the past decades, due to loss or deterioration of their habitats, illegal removal of birds and eggs from the wild for food.
ICF/EWT/KCCEM is working towards securing and improving the ecological integrity of Rugezi marsh. Apart from aesthetic, Rugezi marshland is utilitarian nationally and internationally due to its inflow and outflow regulatory functions, and drainage for hydro-electric generation. It is also a habitat of various avifauna, a typical example being that it harbors around 108 Grey Crowned Cranes which are classified under endangered by IUCN red list. This is why the project was initiated in Rwanda with zeal to conserve Grey Crowned Cranes and their habitats.



Grey Crowned Crane in Rugezi marshland

The Rwanda Crane and wetland project working under ICF/EWT/KCCEM partnership has been working closely with communities around Rugezi marshland and other key wetlands in Rwanda. The project has stimulated the communities with the spirit of ownership and love for their natural resources through crane conservation. This is demonstrated through different initiatives that the community undertake like protecting crane’s nests and reporting breeding sites for further follow-up, reporting poachers, sensitizing their fellows to contribute in conservation and rehabilitating buffer zones to allow nature to keep its function of providing ecosystem services.
On October 17, 2017 local leaders and communities gathered to plant trees to restore the buffer zone of Rugezi marshland, a wetland of great importance with its status of protection as Ramsar site. The aim is to re-establish green space in the buffer zone that had become a ground due to anthropogenic pressure. After this noble activity of planting trees in filling up the gaps within the buffer zone of Rugezi marshland, the project coordinator and the team use the opportunity to reach out/send a conservation message. And this provides a suitable room to interact and discuss conservation issues with the community.




Community in marshland planting trees


The community discussion with leaders and project team after rehabilitation activity


Richard planting a tree Muvunyi, project coordinator in Rwanda


Gladly, the community owns conservation and are committed to keep monitoring any threat to Cranes and keeping the momentum as far as conservation is concerned. The latter is crucial and with the community as pillars, success is a guarantee.

Article by: Hirwa Elise an Intern from University of Rwanda working with Rwanda Coordinator, Richard Muvunyi

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Beekeeping: My Personal Experiences

Thabo Madlala, Southern Drakensberg Crane Conservation Project Eco-Ranger, African Crane Conservation Programme


It is my privilege to be one of the pioneer beekeepers who received training in beekeeping through the Healthy Catchment Alliance Programme, a partnership between the EWT, Conservation South Africa and Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa. After being trained in 2016, I designed my first hive. Encouragingly, the bees colonised it after only a month. This was a learning experience for me as it enabled me to gain new knowledge about bees and their foraging habits. In my spare time, I train people on beekeeping and permaculture. I also conduct general environmental education and awareness in my community through my hiking club.

Demonstrating how to wear beekeeping suits during the workshop

Topics covered during the beekeeping training workshop

Earlier in 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Pretoria hosted by the SEED Initiative, a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy. It provides technical and financial support for small-scale businesses that help improve livelihoods and protect the environment. The workshop goal was to improve participants’ skills in business plan development, building on experiences of originators who have been successfully implemented beekeeping projects. The focus of the workshop was on four themes, generally referred to as the 4Ds – Detect, Determine, Discover and Develop. The 4Ds represent the steps followed when starting a beekeeping project. Participants were introduced to all four steps, with practical examples being given. The first step is to Detect, which entails identifying challenges in your area and brainstorm on possible solutions. The second is to Determine, which involves identifying customers are that you are targeting and the benefit you expect. The third, Discover, involves the process of identifying a proven business model and adapting it to suit your local market. The last focus point is Develop, which focuses on adopting a business idea and developing your business prototype. During the workshop, value chain analysis was also covered.

Registration and insurance requirements

To be a beekeeper in South Africa, one needs to register with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO). In terms of Control Measures R858, published on 15 November 2013, all beekeepers and bee removal service providers must register with DAFF annually. SABIO facilitates a special group insurance policy for its members as part of its agreement with Van Der Laan Insurance Brokers. This special insurance policy was specially designed for the beekeeping community because beekeepers may be accused of liability for damages caused by their bees. Our beekeeping group is currently registered with DAFF but still needs to register with SABIO before we expand our business operations.

Tips for enhancing success

In order for beekeeping projects to be successful in communities, there is a need to focus on the initial beekeeper selection process. A lack of passion and understanding of beekeeping has been identified as a major constraint for many of the communal beekeepers in South Africa. Many beekeepers are under the impression that they will make money though keeping a handful of beehives. They then get discouraged when they find out that it calls for commitment and ability to run the project as a full time business. There are documented cases of beekeeping projects that grew and became successful through effective business planning and management. It is important to select people who have a passion for similar business activities such as vegetable gardening or care for the environment. It is critical to ensure there is enough food for the bees during the cold winter months. Placing the hives near winter flowering plants or planting winter flowering plants is beneficial. We are currently planning to plant more rosemary flowers in our area to attract bees.

Our apiary is situated on a fenced piece of land on the outskirts of our community near a eucalyptus plantation. We encountered challenges during the baiting period, with the bees coming and going without colonising the hive permanently. We also had problems with ants during the baiting process, which made the bees abscond the hives. We solved the problems by applying grease around the poles to deter the ants. This resulted in successful colonisation of the hives. We now have five hives, three of which are colonised.

Thabo with his beehives and a Wattled Crane model used for environmental education

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The Knysna Estuary – after the fires

Grant Smith, Estuary Projects Coordinator, Source to Sea Programme, and Bridget Jonker, Programme Manager, Source to Sea Programme

GrantS@ewt.org.za and BridgetC@ewt.org.za

Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are formed where river meets ocean; fresh and salt water mix to form a unique habitat rich in nutrients and generally warmer than the open sea. They are also usually devoid of large predators making them ideal nursery environments for the young of many marine species. Adults breed in the open ocean after which the young retreat into the warmer, more sheltered and productive estuarine waters to grow until they are ready to graduate into the deeper and harsher ocean environment. About 100 species of South African marine organisms including prawns, crabs, and fishes utilise estuaries in this way, while approximately another 400 species migrate in and out of our estuaries at some time during their lives.

Turbidity and nutrient monitoring sites

The Knysna Estuary is situated in Knysna on the Western Cape’s south coast, between the towns of George and Plettenberg Bay. Due to biodiversity importance, habitat importance, zonal type, rarity and size, the Knysna Estuary has been classified as the most important Estuarine System in South Africa. The Knysna estuary supports South Africa’s largest seagrass population, dominated by Cape Dwarf-eelgrass which is listed as globally Vulnerable to extinction. The eelgrass provides critical habitat for a myriad aquatic animals including the Endangered Knysna Seahorse, the Critically Endangered Pulmonate/False Limpet, the nationally protected Pansy Shell and the rare Knysna Sandgoby. Species such as the Endangered Knysna Leaf-folding Frog, the Endangered Brenton Blue Butterfly and the Knysna Dwarf Chameleon inhabit a range of local habitats, the majority of which are also Endangered.

The seagrass ecosystem faces increased threat from sediment and nutrient pollution due to disturbance in the catchment. Excessive sediments reduce water clarity, preventing processes such as photosynthesis from taking place, smother vegetation, and clog the gills of fish and other aquatic organisms. Excessive nutrients lead to a greater incidence of harmful algal blooms. This threat is of growing concern, particularly in light of the devastating June 2017 fires. The fires have exacerbated existing pressures, which are likely to be compounded as a result.

Sea lettuce smothering Cape dwarf eelgrass

In partnership with the Knysna Basin Project, nutrient and turbidity (sedimentation) monitoring is underway in Knysna. Preliminary results confirm that after significant rainfall events, the waste water treatment works, the Bongani River and the Salt River are currently the primary sources of nutrient pollution in the system. The former two systems enter the estuary between Thesen’s Island and Leisure Isle where a recent outbreak of sea lettuce is evident. Sediment hotspots include stormwater outlets from the centre of Knysna town (assumed to be from construction development in the catchment) and the Salt River catchment, which was significantly affected by the June fires. While many of the burnt slopes are starting to revegetate, in areas like Pledge Nature Reserve severe erosion is still evident as is the regrowth of invasive alien plant seedlings. In October, EWT project coordinator, Grant Smith, met with the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative (GRRI) to discuss collaboration. The GRRI is focusing primarily on protecting life and property, and as there is some crossover, we do need to provide motivation to direct their attention to the protection of natural capital. Our current interventions still align closely with the environmental aspects of the Knysna Municipalities mandate and with that of SANParks.

A monitoring programme, which is currently being finalised, will measure the effectiveness of the floating islands that will be installed in early January. These floating islands will be installed in sediment hotspots to absorb this sediment and prevent vegetation from being smothered. The citizen science biomonitoring aspect of the project is also progressing well. This element of the project will see local volunteers getting involved in monitoring the water quality of the catchment area. It is important that we select volunteers carefully, based on access to monitoring sites and their willingness to conduct the fieldwork consistently over the project period. We intend to train 20-30 volunteers in citizen science techniques in early 2018 and begin rolling out the biomonitoring soon thereafter. We have ordered ten citizen science kits for the volunteers to work in teams of two/three and those should arrive in Knysna early next year.

This project is a partnership between the EWT and the Knysna Basin Project and is being supported by Ryobi and Nedbank.

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We’re sending out a vulture SOS…save our scavengers!

Belinda Glenn, Marketing and Communications Manager


In the last issue of ChitterChatter, we introduced you to Ofentse, a juvenile White-headed Vulture that was found grounded on the Mjejane Private Nature Reserve, bordering the southern Kruger National Park. Ofentse was a victim of poisoning, and only the quick actions of the team and our partners at the State Vet and Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre saved his life. After two months of rehabilitation, Ofentse took to the skies again. This is a great example of how rapid response and treatment of poisoning victims can make all the difference, especially with regards to Critically Endangered species such as the White-headed Vulture, where every individual counts.

White-headed Vultue_SAdF_SAWC, Mpumalanga_20.11.2017.1

It takes blood, sweat, tears and money to get injured or poisoned birds back into the air. On average, it costs about R5,000 per vulture and around 6-8 weeks of special care and rehab, before they are able to take to the sky.

With this in mind, we set up a vulture emergency fund, to cover the costs of the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ailing birds. Every single bird counts: every individual rescued and released has the potential to breed and thrive again. We are hoping to raise the funds to give every sick and injured vulture a fighting chance, and ensure that each bird receives the best care necessary for survival. Extraordinary care for an extraordinary species.

We are unbelievably grateful to those of you who have already made a donation towards this fund. Every amount we receive makes a difference! We are also happy to share the news with you that in late November, we were able to release a second White-headed Vulture that fell prey to poisoning in the southern Lowveld earlier this year. This sub-adult female was grounded after seemingly feeding on poisoned doves, and, like Ofentse, was treated at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre. She was released near the SA Wildlife College, and early indications are that she is doing well.

If you would like to make a difference in the life of a vulture, please make a donation using the words “Vulture SOS”. Large or small, your contribution will go directly to the rescue, feeding, rehabilitation and release of some of Africa’s most endangered animals.

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An innovative approach to rhino conservation

Sya van der Walt-Potgieter; Rhino Connect Director: Media and Marketing


Two South African companies, TWK Agri and Rhino Connect, are inviting individuals and companies to invest in rhinos this festive season by buying a rhino for Christmas. They have recently made history by launching the world’s first insurance fund for rhinos. They introduced the new project together with an app, another world first.


Andries Potgieter, Rhino Connect Director for Business, says: “The app is the first of its kind in the world and an information hub about rhino matters, which you will not be able to find anywhere else. The app connects the world with local wildlife and their habitats to promote a harmonious and enriched relationship between communities and the nature surrounding them. Now we are challenging companies and individuals to spend money on a rhino for Christmas instead of expensive office parties.”

The Rhino Connect app is available on Google Play and Apple Store. It features amongst others, the latest rhino and endangered species news, exciting blogs from conservation specialists, and much more. Another unique feature is that members of the public also receive exclusive access to information and footage of their own rhino via the app, without any location information being divulged.

The insurance fund is a unique concept and tailor-made to support the private rhino sector in South Africa. “Rhino Connect, TWK Agri and Animal Sure have negotiated a market first whereby the public can assist private rhino owners to insure their rhinos against poaching or death by natural causes. This will allow the public to contribute to rhino conservation while at the same time knowing what exactly their contribution will be used for,” says TWK’s Kobus Stapelberg.

The majority of rhinos in South Africa are owned by the private sector.  Private rhino owners are the custodians of a quarter of the world’s rhino population, about 6,000. These include black and white rhinos. While the South African government is proactive in the fight against rhino poaching, their efforts are mostly focused on the national parks such as the Kruger National Park, where severe poaching is taking place. As a result, government is not in a position to assist private owners in anti-poaching efforts.

Currently private rhino owners are hesitant to carry on with the farming of rhinos due to the fact that it is not financially viable any more. The trade price of rhinos has dropped by 60% over the last decade. Not only do they spend thousands per month to keep the animals safe, the daily upkeep of the rhinos is also taking its toll. Since 2009, private rhino owners have spent R2 billion on rhino conservation. Many owners cannot deal with the stress and the almost impossible task to look after these animals.

How can you help?

  • You can invest in your own rhino for only R1,000 per year.
  • The premium will cover the rhino against poaching, death by natural causes as well as other expenses such as medical treatment which could be very costly.
  • A percentage of your contribution will also assist the farmer with monthly expenses such as food and security measures.
  • A portion of your contribution will be returned to you at the end of 12 months if no claims have been filed.
  • Should the rhino die from a poaching incident or natural causes, you will also receive a pay-out.

‘We believe the public can make a difference by getting involved in this initiative. We need to strengthen the arms of the private sector to ensure the future survival of our rhinos. This initiative is unique in the sense that the investor will know exactly what his or her funds will be used for,’ says Potgieter.

Investors will receive a free subscription to the Rhino Connect app with exclusive information and updates on ‘Your Own Rhino’. The app can be downloaded by clicking on the following links for Google Play and the Apple App Store.



The EWT is Rhino Connect’s exclusive conservation partner, and will be providing guidance on best practice for rhino conservation, as well as supplying conservation information for the Rhino Connect app and working with Rhino Connect on other exciting future projects. Rhino Connect will support the EWT with a percentage of the income received from international donors. “Rhino Connect is very excited to partner with the EWT, an organisation that has been considered a champion for wildlife conservation for more than four decades. We believe this partnership will go a long way to strengthen efforts to protect not only rhinos but other endangered species as well,” says Sya van der Walt-Potgieter, Rhino Connect Director for Media and Marketing.

Please visit www.rhinoconnect.co.za and www.twkagri.com for more information and watch the promotional video for more information: https://youtu.be/ufdFLXW2P6Y

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Owl-inspired wisdom solves mystery


A conservation superhero has turned crime fighter, as the special owls he saves have led the way to a nest of stolen vehicles.

Early on Tuesday morning, 5 December, the manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Birds of Prey Programme, Dr Gareth Tate saw that, as usual, his Ford Ranger stood safely in the driveway. Moments later, when he looked again, there was only empty space where his Ranger once stood. A trusted companion in the field for many years, the vehicle had been sponsored by the Ford Wildlife Foundation, and Gareth’s work would be crippled without it. He immediately called the police and the vehicle tracking company, Netstar, and notified the security company that guards the street.

CCTV footage showed a car pulling up next to the EWT vehicle, and less than ten minutes later the Ranger was driven off. To follow the strong signal from the two tracking devices in the vehicle, a team was sent to intercept the stolen car, but the devices were soon found discarded from the vehicle. It was now officially off the grid.

Or was it? As it happened, there was a solar powered GPS/GSM tracking device in the vehicle, which was intended to be attached to a threatened African Grass-owl as part of an EWT research project on the movement ecology of the species on the highveld coal belt. The team had planned to head out the evening before to deploy it on one of these mysterious birds, but this trip had been cancelled due to heavy rain.

The owl tracking device uses cellular networks to download and send GPS locations or fixes at set intervals. Gareth immediately uploaded new settings to the device that was due to come online at 14:00 that afternoon. The new settings would make the device come online and send a location every 10 minutes, as opposed to only every 20 hours.


At 14:00, Gareth logged in to see if the device had powered up, but to his disappointment, it had not come back online and it was feared that this tracking device too had been destroyed.

After checking on the device on an hourly basis for the next few days with no success, it seemed as if all hope was lost. However, a final attempt to check up on the logger on Sunday 10 December proved successful, as it was not only online but was giving strong GPS fixes. The police were contacted, as was Netstar, and both mobilised their teams. Gareth also contacted Mark Notelvitz, the director of CORTAC tactical security services in Johannesburg, whom he also informed about the owl tracking unit coming online and Mark immediately got his teams into the area, despite the EWT not being their client.

With the help of SAPS, CORTAC and Netstar searched a number of premises in close proximity to the last GPS location, but were unable to locate either the vehicle or tracker. On Monday morning (11 December 2017), Gareth again logged in and noticed the tracker had come online again. Due to poor cellular reception and waning battery life, there was some error in the accuracy of each GPS fix, which usually varies from 0-100m, making the exact location of the device difficult to distinguish. But after conducting in-depth analysis on the data, based on similar work done when trying to locate vulture nests from GPS-tagged individuals, Gareth was able to determine a more accurate location of the stolen device. He again contacted the SAPS, Netstar, and CORTAC  with the updated address and coordinates for the device. This led to the discovery of the stolen EWT Ford Ranger along with two other stolen vehicles. A number of individuals were also apprehended and a large amount of criminal activity was uncovered in the premises. The EWT’s little owl tracker not only saves owls’ lives but was instrumental in bringing down a criminal syndicate and recovering stolen vehicles.

This remarkable story demonstrates how teamwork, relentless perseverance and conservation in action not only saves wildlife but saves the day!

Special thanks must go to all those involved, including SAPS, CORTAC, Netstar, and Ford Wildlife Foundation, for helping to return this vehicle to the EWT, keeping our birds of prey in the sky and our Ranger on the road!


Dr Gareth Tate
Birds of Prey Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398

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Celebrating conservation successes this International Cheetah Day


This International Cheetah Day, celebrated annually on 4 December, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is celebrating the incredible success of its Cheetah Metapopulation Project.

This project was launched by the EWT in 2011, and in just six years has grown wild Cheetah numbers in South African reserves from 217 to 328 – an incredible 51% increase in just five years! This is thanks to many private and state reserves that are creating safe space for Cheetah populations.


Increasing human pressures on Cheetah include retaliatory killings in response to livestock attacks, snaring, poaching for skins, roadkill, and loss of space due to agriculture and urbanisation. These factors have contributed to a global decline in wild populations that has resulted in Cheetahs becoming extinct in 94% of their historical range. Cheetahs once roamed as far north as the former Soviet Union, and as far east as Myanmar (Burma) but, in just the past 15 years, the global population has declined by almost a quarter. For example, since 2001, Cheetah populations in Zimbabwe have declined from 500 to 170. Today, South Africa is the only country in the world with a growing wild Cheetah population, and this is due in no small part to the efforts of the EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which now operates in 55 reserves.

One such reserve is Rietvlei Nature Reserve, situated just outside the city of Pretoria, South Africa. The success of this conservation initiative between the City of Tshwane and the EWT was highlighted in early November 2017, when two female Cheetahs with litters of three and six cubs each, joined each other on a kill, treating delighted visitors at the reserve to a very rare sighting of eleven Cheetahs in one spot.

This special event marks an important new phase in the management of the Cheetahs at Rietvlei. The reserve currently supports a population of 12 Cheetahs, yet only has sufficient prey to support three. Vincent van der Merwe, the EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Co-ordinator, says: “Prey populations in Rietvlei Nature Reserve have been severely reduced over the past three years due to the success of the Cheetahs. Efforts will now be made to remove some of the Cheetahs from Rietvlei to ensure the survival of species such as Blesbok, Ostrich and Reedbuck, as well as maintain the genetic diversity of the resident Cheetah population.”

The City of Tshwane has offered the Cheetahs to other state and private game reserves across the country. In the next 18 months, 11 Cheetahs from Rietvlei will be relocated to Addo Elephant National Park, Marakele National Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, Selati Private Game Reserve and Zimanga Private Game Reserve. They will bring with them new genetics to these reserves, contributing to the conservation of the species across the country.

The Rietvlei Cheetah conservation success story was made possible due to the safe space made available by the City of Tshwane, the input of the late Riaan Marais, funding from the Pretoria East Hunters Association, collars provided by the Friends of Rietvlei, monitoring by Rietvlei staff and overall coordination by the EWT.

Other important work being done by this project is in KwaZulu-Natal, at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP). With only three related Cheetahs in the reserve by 2016, there were concerns that inbreeding, amongst other factors, had played a part in the population decline over the years.

The EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project worked tirelessly to identify suitable Cheetahs for introduction into the reserve. Ultimately, four Cheetahs were sourced, with two females coming from Hopewell Private Game Reserve, one male from Shamwari Private Game Reserve, and one male from Mountain Zebra National Park, all Eastern Cape reserves. These cats were successfully relocated to HiP in early October, bringing with them the new genetics that will hopefully provide the stimulus for population growth. The Cheetahs continue to be monitored closely by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Wildlife Act, and appear to be settling well into their new environment.

The EWT will source a further five Cheetahs for HiP over the next two years, to ensure the long-term stability of the wild Cheetah population in the reserve in the future.

With successes such as these, and as far afield as Malawi, where Cheetahs were reintroduced, in partnership with African Parks, for the first time in 20 years, the EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project is going from strength to strength. Vincent van der Merwe was also recently recognised with a SANParks Kudu Award for his individual contribution to conservation as a result of this work, a fitting accolade for a project that is making a tangible difference to Cheetahs in the region.


Vincent van der Merwe
Cheetah Metapopulation Project Coordinator
Endangered Wildlife Trust

David Marneweck
Carnivore Conservation Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398

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