Black rhino project doing wonders for community

2008-06-22 00:00

The black rhino range expansion project launched last November, which is a partnership between the Gumbi royal family and its community, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has offered the community in the Pongola area north of the province a new lease on life.

This is according to Sifiso Keswa, general manager of EKZNW in Zululand. Keswa told The Witness during the annual stakeholders’ forum meeting held at the Queen Elizabeth Park on Saturday that the project has not only sought to increase the number of endangered black rhino, but has also created job opportunities.

Eleven black rhinos were released to the Gumbi community owned Somkhanda Game Reserve in Pongola last November with the aim of increasing its population to 1 000. Keswa said the good news is that a black rhino calf has been born. He said other good news is that more animals will be released to the reserve soon.

“We will be releasing eight white rhinos, 125 inyalas, 15 kudus, 100 impalas, 15 wildebeests, six giraffes and 20 zebras to the Somkhanda Game Reserve. This was approved by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife board. This will make the game reserve the first in the country to stock both black and white rhinos,” said Keswa.

He said that since the project started the Gumbi community have benefited on skills development such as security training to protect against poaching and vandalism of the game reserve.

“Other expertise from WWF has been filtered to the community and Ezemvelo staff so that we will know what to do if WWF decides to leave the project,” said Keswa.

He said the project was made possible after the Gumbi community allocated five commercial farms under the Land Restitution process. Opposed to turning the entire land into a settlement area, the people of the community zoned their land so that it would include commercial cattle farming, conservation and development.

thandom@witness.co.za

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