Introduction: Rietvlei anti-poaching project

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Rietvlei Nature Reserve is located in the City of Pretoria, South Africa and is managed by the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. The reserve is home to a large herd of white rhinos and a host of other species, including endangered cheetah.

The City of Tshwane has limited resources to manage the reserve and specifically to protect their rhino population. They have unfortunately lost three rhino over the last two years (2016 and 2017) due to poaching. Considering groupelephant.com has offices in Pretoria and the urgency of getting involved to secure the lives of the rhino, ERP approached the City of Tshwane to provide support.

Since October 2017, ERP has been instrumental in securing the lives of these rhinos and providing invaluable resources to the City of Tshwane. ERP, has in essence, become the front- line protection of the City’s Rhino population, in the largest urban nature reserve in the world.


Why and how ERP got involved

ERP started the protection process by conducting a gap analysis of what critical areas needed to be addressed to stabilise the poaching problem. Once this gap analysis was completed, a strategy was developed and implemented which included the following solutions:

  • Appointment of an ERP project manager to co-ordinate the anti-poaching activities in the reserve;
  • Deployment of a 24-hour drone surveillance service with a full-time pilot. The drone flies at least twice a day;
  • Implemented a de-horning programme where all of the rhinos in the reserve were de-horned to minimise risk;
  • Installation of a License Plate Recognition Camera to monitor license plates when they enter the reserve, flagging any vehicles which have been involved in previous illegal activities, especially poaching;
  • ERP Rangers provide voluntary patrol support to the reserve;
  • ERP is providing supplementary feed to the rhinos on a daily basis. There is not enough biomass in the reserve for the rhinos during winter months and supplementary feeding is therefore required;
  • Established a partnership with Bull security, a local security company in the east of Pretoria. Bull Security provides armed reaction to any poaching incursions;
  • Bull Security has donated a response vehicle for anti-poaching in the reserve; and
  • ERP has also engaged with other partners to provide additional solutions for the protection of rhinos in the reserve.
 

De-horning programme at Rietvlei Nature Reserve

Next steps

The key objective of the Rietvlei programme is to secure the lives of these rhinos on a sustainable basis. ERP is in the process of developing a model where partner organisations, such as bull security can become actively involved in securing these lives. ERP’s role is to act as a catalyst for the project with an aim of soliciting additional investment and support for the reserve.

Our next activities for implementation include the following:

  • Fence sensors and cameras in Hot Spot incursion areas;
  • Increasing voluntary hours by ERP Rangers;
  • Increasing number of drone pilots; and
  • Deployment of additional full-time field rangers in the reserve.
 

We believe that we have been highly effective in stabilising the poaching threat to Rietvlei Nature Reserve. We believe that this reserve could be a very good case study for other anti-poaching projects moving forward. This project is also proving ERP’s ability to effectively partner with government entities in adding significant value to conservation project.