Project: ALPHA/ECHO Species: Rhino Client: Big Game Parks (BGP) Park: Hlane Royal National Park/Mkhaya Game Reserve Country: Swaziland Funding needed: $790,000 for a three-year ranger training commitment.
ESPA currently has a long-term training support strategy in place with Big Game Parks (BGP) in Swaziland. Training provided increases the capacity of the park to counter the poaching threat and safeguard endangered species and locals.
Swaziland’s black and white rhino populations are of continental Importance; the entire national herd is under the protection of BGP in the Hlane Royal National Park and the Mkhaya Game Reserve. These rhino are currently under great threat from organized poaching syndicates – seasoned bush fighters – mostly operating out of Mozambique. This poaching menace is life threatening not only to the rhino, but also to: the rangers who protect them, the wider park staff, and the local population. Eight rangers have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting the nation’s wildlife over the years.
During the last rhino war in the late 1980s and early 1990s Swaziland lost 90% of its rhino. The country has lost three rhino during the current poaching crisis, but since ESPA became involved in training the BGP ranger force no further losses have occurred. This is a credit to BGP and his rangers’ dedication to duty and increased skill sets to counter the poaching threat, but much is still to be done. The Kruger National Park lies just to the north of Swaziland and KZN to the south – both areas are suffering an unstoppable onslaught of rhino poaching so the threat to Swaziland geographically speaking remains very high indeed.
In June 2015 ESPA deployed to Swaziland and provided basic ranger training to 51 rangers. The first of a two-part medial training package was delivered in April 2016, where 36 more rangers were trained, and 32 were trained on the second part of the course in November 2016. 10% of those trained were new rangers. Specialist ‘Train the Trainer’ courses were also conducted in August 2016 to 6 promising candidates that had identified leadership ability, with a view to cascade training as the ranger force develops to avoid skill fade.
BGP is committed to increasing its ranger force with new recruits and further enhancement of the existing rangers’ skill sets, which are currently assessed at the medial level. Furthermore, 10% of all students were officers from the Royal Swaziland Police (RSP) force, and volunteers from the Crown Prosecution Service. This has had many benefits, not least the development of a good working relationship between the ranger force, the RSP, and the Director of Public Prosecution office, who, to achieve the end goal, must have a cohesive working relationship to arrest criminals and prosecute those involved in the greater wildlife conspiracy. Swaziland may prove to be the last secure place for rhino on the continent. This small country is the only rhino range state that has managed to hold its own during the current crisis.
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