GNF - Rhino Protection in South Africa

Rhino Protection in South Africa



Due to illegal poaching and habitat destruction the population of Black and White Rhino (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum) has dramatically declined. Over the past years, the number of illegal killed rhinos has almost tripled endangering particularly the population of the seriously threatened black rhino. Only in South Africa, 668 rhinos were killed for their horns until the end of 2012. The increased demand for horn on the Asian black market is one of the main causes of this alarming development. During the previous years, the numbers of killed rhinos mounted continuously, in 2011 448, in 2010 333 and in 2009 122 cadavers were found in South Africa. (Source: South African Natural Park, 


The project area Somkhanda Community Game Reserve is located about 100 km, west of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in the Province of  KwaZulu-Natal, in the north east of South Africa. Covering an area of 16,000 hectares, it is home to 24 Black and White Rhinos as well as a vast number of other animal species. 


In 2005, the inhabitants of the municipality of Gumbi decided to establish a natural reserve. In conjunction with the Wildlands Conservation Trust, a management plan was developed to control the protection and use of the conservation area in future.

Project Goals

The Black and White Rhinos will be protected in the long term from illegal poaching through the use of GPS transmitters. The signals continually transmit the position of the individual animals, making it possible for the trained rangers to intervene quickly and efficiently in case of emergency. This hinders both the killing of the animals and makes the arrest of the poachers possible. The resulting deterrence following the announcement of the new system is a major goal of the project, which will also have effects beyond the borders of the natural reserve.


The connection of the adjacent natural reserves through corridors along with the sensitization of the local population for the protection of the rhinos are further important project measures, which will ensure the long-term preservation of the species. Rhinos also have an enormous tourism potential. A healthy animal population offers the local population a new source of income through soft tourism in the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve.

Project Measures

Due to the similar circumference of the head and neck, it is not possible for rhinos to wear tracking devices around their necks. Therefore the small GPS devices must be inserted directly into the horn. The procedure is completely pain free for the animals and is carried out by veterinarians after the animal is sedated. The signals from the tracking device make 24 hour live surveillance of each individual animal possible. A special safety station continually processes the data and reports unnatural movement patterns, whereupon the rangers can automatically intervene. Wildlands Conservation Trust has already fitted 7 rhinos with the new technology in 2011 and since then no rhino in the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve has been poached. Due to the very good results, the remaining 17 animals will now also be outfitted with the tracking devices.


The local population is being sensitized to the importance of the rhinos and their protection through environmental education measures. Alternative income sources through soft tourism are presented and worked towards. This offers the local people a new livelihood and simultaneously ensures the protection of the animals and the entire natural reserve. The creation of a network of the adjacent natural reserves also expands the animals’ habitat and makes population growth possible. However it is not only the rhinos that profit from the increased grazing area and food sources. Hoofed animals, lions and elephants also profit. In the long-term, the migration of the animals will ensure a healthy gene pool by avoiding incest and the resulting hereditary diseases.

 Black Rhino
 A rhino, killed by illegal poaching.
 Black Rhino: Female with calf
 Antelopes at a standpipe.
 Boring of the scoop for the GPS transmitter.
 Positioning of the GPS transmitter in the horn of the rhino.

Project Duration:


Project Country:






Project Partner:

January 2012 – December 2012


South Africa


Foundation Ursula Merz as well as by the German Environmental Aid and Rapunzel Naturkost with funds from the Hand in Hand-Fund


Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT)