Harnessing local knowledge to protect the free roaming black rhinos in the Kunene and Erongo regions of Namibia - let locals fill the boots.

Save the Rhino Trust
Published: 30 May 2023
Last edited: 30 May 2023
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Our aim is to protect the World's Last Free Ranging Black Rhino population in the open access landscape of Kunene and Erongo regions in Namibia, taking a landscape-level approach by working alongside communal conservancies in the 25 000km2 area. For 40 years our trackers and conservancy rhino rangers have worked tirelessly in the rhino landscape to mitigate poaching, human-induced disturbance and threats to the species, contributing to the safeguarding of the black rhino population in the north-west. This population has been noted as a national asset to Namibia and is an income generating resource through rhino tourism and various employment opportunities created, contributing to livelihoods and income diversification, supporting the traditional livestock farming and agriculture. Communal conservancies in the Kunene and Erongo regions are recognised as rhino custodians allowing access to benefits for communities and expanding rangeland for rhinos.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Hot desert
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming
Indigenous people
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas governance
Science and research
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Status Assessment
Species Monitoring and Research
Species Conservation Translocations
Species Conservation Planning
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Increasing temperatures
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of technical capacity
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources


Kunene, Namibia


  • Poaching

  • Lack of capacity and innovative technology

  • Improper infrastructure

  • Inadequate supply of equipment

  • Drought


  • Communal conservancies 

  • Conservancy members

  • Joint venture tourism partners of the respective conservancies

  • Namibian population as a whole

  • Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism

  • Save the Rhino Trust (SRT)

  • Travelers/ Tourists who value wild rhinos

How do the building blocks interact?

Our proposed ‘building blocks’ complement each other as they harness different yet powerful fundamental values and are critical to be conducted through our projects.  They may occur at the same time or in a sequence depending on the type of project. Species conservation especially in a communal landscape requires strong collaboration amongst the different role players and is only made possible through engagement. Communities play a big role as they set aside land for conservation through their zonation planning. By engaging the communities they are motivated and value the rhino more. In turn conservancy management can enter into joint venture agreements with tourism operators and improve the livelihoods of local people through job creation. Awareness raising and outreach is of utmost importance, we aim to engage youth through sports as they are most likely vulnerable to poaching syndicates.


  • Zero poaching of rhinos in our landscape, March 2023 marking 31 months without poaching.

  • 13 Fly-camps upgraded, these are satelite sleep-out camps for rangers during their patrols in the landscape.

  • SMART technology adapted and used across the landscape 

  • Expansion of the Conservancy Rhino Ranger programme to a new landscape, 20 participants trained in basic rhino monitoring

  • 25 Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) trackers and 33 Conservancy Rhino Rangers (CRR) trained on the use of SMART devices. Save the Rhino Trust trackers are fulltime employees and salaried by Save the Rhino Trust, whereas Conservancy Rhino Rangers are employed and paid by the communal conservancies


Save the Rhino Trust

The community game guard and/or ranger workforce in north-west Namibia is heavily male-dominated.  Yet a few courageous women are beginning to change all that. While not the first female rhino ranger, Maleska Harases of ≠Khoadi-//Hȏas Conservancy, has been one of the most active and top female Conservancy rhino ranger performers presently rivaling many of the men.  In 2022, she logged 114 Active Field Days, 21 confirmed Rhino Sightings, and 1161 Foot Kilometers which positions her ahead of many of the male rangers.  In fact, her average foot kilometer per day rate – which enables comparison between rangers who often do not patrol at the same frequency due to different scheduling approaches – finished in the overall Top 20 at 14.5 kilometers per day surpassing over 80% of the other male rangers.  She joined the programme in November 2020 and since has produced a total of 202 Active Field Days, 54 confirmed Rhino Sightings, and 2706 Foot Kilometers to protect what she refers to as ‘her rhinos’.  Further noteworthy, is that despite ≠Khoadi-//Hȏas suffering a number of poaching incidences until 2017, not a single rhino has been poached on Maleska’s watch as a ranger!  She is a role model for other women who think that a ranger’s work is only fit for a man.  In her wake, 2 additional female rangers have since joined her at ≠Khoadi-//Hȏas and another 4 female rangers presently serve as Conservancy Rhino Rangers around the region.  While her individual performance and statistics may not necessarily rank in the top 10 echelon, Maleska exemplifies the future of community-based rangers.


Due to her bravery and commitment Maleska recently won an award at the second Garth Owen Smith Ranger Award (GOSCARS) ceremony in Namibia for his exceptional performance in 2022.  The awards have been set up to recognize outstanding community ranger work across Namibia in remembrance of the late Garth Owen Smith, widely recognized as a key founder of the Namibian community conservation programme in the early 1980’s.

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Deoclearancia Dax Save the Rhino Trust