This is a brief overview of where we are in terms of conservation at the Melorane ERP Game Reserve as we continued our unwavering commitment to safeguarding wildlife and preserving biodiversity.
We completed the mammoth task of fencing the area to the standard required to keep elephant and rhino, and received all of the necessary permits to hold rhino on the reserve in June of 2022.
In July 2022, a significant milestone was reached as a group of 6 rhino bulls was relocated to the reserve, marking the reintroduction of rhinos to the land after a 70-year absence.
Since 2016, ERP has been actively involved in safeguarding a rhino population at another reserve. Through our anti-poaching efforts and providing supplementary feeding to rhinos in an area with suboptimal vegetation for their dietary needs, we found ourselves in the fortunate position of having an overpopulation of endangered rhinos. This presented an opportunity to relocate six of these bulls to the newly established Melorane ERP Game Reserve in the North West Province of South Africa, which is leased from the local Barokologadi community. The reserve boasts abundant sweet grasslands, which our wildlife veterinarian described as "rhino heaven." The rhinos were successfully relocated and have thrived in their new environment.
In February 2023, an additional 5 rhino cows were successfully relocated to the reserve. This move aimed to ensure the sustainable growth of the population and contribute to the expansion of genetic diversity within the reserve.
Looking beyond the boundaries of our conservancy, we are establishing a partnership with the North West Parks Board to develop an effective Elephant Management Plan for the entire population. Understanding the significance of regional collaboration, we aim to lower the fences separating the national park from our conservancy in the future.
Our commitment to safeguarding vulnerable species extended beyond rhinos and elephant. With deep concern for the well-being of the planet's tallest creatures, we intervened when five giraffes faced the perilous threat of displacement due to cattle farming. Recognizing the urgency, we provided them with a safe haven within the Melorane ERP Game Reserve, effectively saving them from an untimely demise.
A robust ecological management plan became the cornerstone of our conservation efforts at the Melorane ERP Game Reserve. Guided by scientific expertise and a deep understanding of the ecosystem, we set forth on a journey to increase and maintain biodiversity within the reserve. Our tireless efforts included habitat restoration, invasive species control, and the promotion of sustainable practices to ensure the long-term viability of the reserve's ecological balance.
March 2023 was a momentous occasion as we proudly announced the official establishment of the Melorane ERP Game Reserve as a Conservancy, and successfully opposed an application to prospect for mineral rights on the reserve.
In response to the increasing presence of mining prospectors in the area, it became evident that immediate action was required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Melorane ERP Game Reserve. Through extensive cooperation with stakeholders and relevant authorities, we are currently undertaking the necessary measures to officially designate the reserve as a Protected Area. This vital initiative aims to restrict the granting of prospecting rights, safeguarding the reserve's sanctity and the invaluable wildlife it harbours.
Under the guidance of Tim Higgs from groupelephant.com's business, Metagrated, our security strategy has been successfully implemented, delivering efficient and cost-effective outcomes. Through a strategic fusion of cutting-edge technology, the unmatched expertise of our anti-poaching and security professionals, and the commitment and skills of our Canine Unit, we are as confident as possible about the safety of our rhino population. However, we remain vigilant, recognizing the ever-present threats that persist.
At Melorane our K9 unit has emerged as a formidable force for safeguarding the reserve's wildlife. In the past year, we witnessed the exponential growth and development of our K9 rangers, who underwent rigorous training to enhance their skills and capabilities. With unwavering dedication, our four K9 rangers have transitioned from training to active duty, assuming crucial roles as trackers, sniffers, and attack dogs.
In a heartwarming turn of events, our four K9 rangers in training were blessed with two litters of puppies, bringing immeasurable joy to our dedicated rangers responsible for these dogs, and all of the people involved at Melorane. Along the picturesque banks of the Great Marico River, these playful pups are growing up under the watchful eyes of their K9 parents.
We express our deepest gratitude to our partners, supporters, and the dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to protect and preserve our natural heritage. As we move forward, we remain resolute in our commitment to conservation, embracing new challenges with unwavering determination and ensuring a save place in the world for our rhino population.
At ERP, we firmly believe that the economic empowerment of the local communities surrounding the endangered elephant and rhino habitats is a vital factor in ensuring long-term success. We are proud to have partnered with the Barokologadi community, who own the reserve we lease, and reside in four villages in close proximity to the reserve. This partnership has enabled us to create sustainable opportunities and foster positive change within the community.
Through our collaboration with the Barokologadi community, we have prioritized the employment of community members within the reserve. This initiative not only provides them with valuable livelihood opportunities but also strengthens their bond with conservation efforts. Moreover, we have established a revenue-sharing mechanism through ecotourism initiatives with the Communal Property Association, ensuring that the benefits derived from these ventures directly contribute to the community's well-being.
Recognizing the importance of fostering entrepreneurship and addressing immediate needs, we have established a trust fund using lease fees. This fund aims to seed businesses for community members and provide immediate relief for hunger.
One such successful business venture is the Basebo Training Center. In September 2022, the center witnessed the graduation of 30 learners, and in September 2023, we anticipate the graduation of an additional 60 learners. Our business plan emphasizes transferring the necessary skills and expertise to community members employed by the center, enabling them to manage and sustain the business effectively. The center will be profitable from October 2023, and the profits generated by the training center will contribute to the operational expenses of the Communal Property Association and replenish the fund for future initiatives. This success is attributed to the resilient community members and the business expertise and entrepreneurship of our volunteers from groupelephant.com. The training center is hosted in the Barokologadi Tribal Hall, where we have collaborated to improve facilities, including the implementation of a borehole, water tank, and cooling systems for our learners.
At ERP, we have successfully managed human-elephant conflict, specifically crop invasion and property damage, through innovative approaches such as beehive fences and the installation of beehives in large trees. We have installed 180 hives at Melorane, predominantly in ancient leadwood trees. These hives are managed, monitored, and harvested by a community-owned cooperative. The proceeds generated from the Melorane Honey initiative not only contribute to its growth but also provide a lucrative livelihood for our dedicated beekeepers.
As we developed personal relationships with learners at the training center, we recognized the potential for enhancing their career prospects by connecting them with talented individuals from groupelephant.com. To this end, we launched a mentorship program that allows groupelephant.com professionals from around the world to visit the learnership center and assist learners in implementing plans for their personal and professional growth. Cleo Modisane's success story exemplifies the positive outcomes of this program, as she is currently studying law in Pretoria, South Africa, thanks to the support she received through this initiative.
In addition to our #Bikes4ERP initiative (see section 4 below), where we have provided 402 bicycles to children that need to travel vast distances to school near Melorane, we have launched the #Shoes4ERP initiative. Through some investigation on why attendance is still not 100 percent, we realised that during the winter months in South Africa, traveling barefoot on a bicycle is very cold and uncomfortable. We have therefore started delivering shoes together with our bicycles and helmets, and hope to report on further improvement of attendance and performance at the Barokologadi schools.
In December 2022, we mourned the loss of TZ Molwantwa, the chairperson of the Barokologadi Communal Property Association since 1997. He witnessed the displacement of the Barokologadi community at a young age and dedicated his life to reclaiming their land. He was deeply committed to preserving the habitat for conservation, envisioning it to resemble the wilderness of his childhood with free-roaming elephants and rhinos. It was an honor to have him present during the release of our rhino bulls on the reserve. As a tribute to his unwavering dedication, ERP established the TZ Molwantwa scholarship in January 2023.
We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all stakeholders, including our shareholders, partners, and community members, for their ongoing support and commitment to our mission. Together, we continue to drive positive change and ensure a sustainable future for both wildlife and local communities.