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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Resort in fight against rhino poaching epidemic

   
In a handover ceremony held at its Johannesburg head office today, conservation-led experiential travel company &Beyond received a donation of ZAR 1.2 million towards the protection of rhino at its Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province.

With fundraising coordinated by StopRhinoPoaching.com, an independent web-based organisation dedicated to raising support for the war against rhino poaching, the money will allow Phinda's contracted anti-poaching unit, Nyathi APU Security, to employ 30 additional armed guards. These extra guards will supplement the current security force in place. While the funds will be used to cover training, uniforms and equipment for the new personnel, the guards' wages are sponsored by South African National Parks (SANParks) as part of their Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Aimed at providing poverty relief through projects that create new jobs while serving a socially useful purpose, the EPWP is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and implemented by SAN Parks. With ZAR 141 million dedicated to the EPWP over three years by the government, the initiative has been rolled out beyond the country's national parks, with &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve the second private game reserve selected to take part.

While the main function of the armed security guards will be to assist in the reserve's anti-poaching efforts, they will also take part in community engagement activities aimed at raising conservation awareness throughout areas neighbouring the reserve.

"We already have a solid relationship with the people surrounding our reserve thanks to the work that we do with our community development partner, Africa Foundation. We are delighted that we can further support our core ethic of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, Care of the People, by boosting job creation and increasing skills development in the area, while also ensuring the safety of our land and wildlife," explains Simon Naylor, Conservation Manager at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve.

The Nyathi APU has an excellent track record of pro-active successes, as well as a close relationship with law enforcement bodies in the area. In a recent joint operation with the SAPS, three suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the town of Jozini, just north of &Beyond Phinda on 10 May.

As part of a three-year partnership with &Beyond Phinda that has seen ZAR 3.8 million committed by thegovernment through SANParks, the armed guards initiative has also generated significant private donations. Sponsors who contributed towards the total of ZAR 1.2 million handed over today

include Lead SA's Rhino Action Group Effort (RAGE) and StopRhinoPoaching.com's project partners, Jenna Clifford, BB Cement, Bush Straps, Olienhout Republic TUKS, Toyota McCarthy,Alu-Cab and Lancewood Cheese. Funds raised by StopRhinoPoaching.com have also been used for other anti-poaching initiatives at Phinda, including tracking dogs, thermal imaging cameras and security training.

"We are very grateful to have been chosen as a partner by SANParks and our other generous donors and believe that this is thanks to &Beyond's genuine focus on and dedication to the preservation of wildlife. The funding we have received will allow us to do even more to further our rhino conservation, security and community development" says Naylor.

&Beyond is committed to rhino conservation and has played an integral and ongoing role in the protection of the now endangered species over the past 22 years. In addition to donating some of its rhino for translocation, &Beyond regularly contributes to the preservation of this species through many other important initiatives.

&Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is a founding member of Project Rhino KZN, which ensures that the necessary security measures are in place in the province. In addition to a rhino notching and identification programme, &Beyond Phinda has implemented several other protective measures, including increased security, ranger patrols, aerial patrols, watch towers, CCTV cameras and an extensive informant network.

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