'Beyond The Dust - 4k - a Tourism Conservation Success Story'

'Beyond The Dust - 4k - a Tourism Conservation Success Story'

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Welcome to "Beyond the Dust". In this  Documentary, we discuss the intricacies of   wildlife conservation, focusing on the Onguma  Nature Reserve, a unique sanctuary nestled   alongside Namibia's famed Etosha National Park.  Covering an expansive 34,000 hectares, with its   western boundary melding seamlessly with Etoscha,  Onguma provides a captivating backdrop to explore   the challenges and triumphs of nature management.  Home to four of the  "Big Five" and boasting a rich diversity  of plains game and over 300 bird species,   Onguma serves as a microcosm of the  region's biodiversity.  Our journey begins with a crucial aspect of conservation:  Understanding the resident wildlife population.  

Through meticulous "Game Counts," conducted by  Reserve Manager Yona and his dedicated team,   we gain invaluable insights into the distribution  and abundance of key species within the reserve. [YONA] As you can see the helicopter behind me is  here for a game count. We do annual game counts   on Onguma. And we log everything on our app,  Epicollect, where we can see the location of   the animal, what species and what the distance  from the helicopter the animal has been seen.   So that will be valuable information for us  to get a distribution map and to understand   where the animals walk around and how many we  have. So yeah, another fun day ahead of us. We're going to fly from north to  south in an easterly-westerly direction   with 500 metre transects. It  might seem like a fun job,  

but there's a lot of stress involved  because we need to find the animals,   see them and count them with locations and  everything. There's a lot of things that can go   wrong. And obviously the numbers in the end will  make up a lot of our decisions on, you know, if we   have too many of certain browsers or grazers and  all of that. So a very valuable tool that we use.

As we conduct the Game Counts, we recognize  their significance as a snapshot of our current   wildlife population and distribution. While  these counts offer invaluable initial data,   they also serve as a springboard for  ongoing research and monitoring efforts   throughout our conservation journey. During aerial surveys,  our focus intensifies on locating the elusive  Black Rhinos. Understanding their home range  is paramount to their protection and survival  in the wild. This critical task falls under  

the purview of the Anti- Poaching Unit,  tasked with safeguarding the entirety of   Onguma's wildlife population. In the realm of wildlife conservation, the  gravest threat facing our planet is habitat   loss, compounded by the relentless  onslaught of poaching. In response,   reserves such as ours implement a variety  of measures to safeguard their territories,   including a sophisticated security method  known as the Anti-Poaching Unit. Comprising   highly trained personnel, this unit is tasked  with the daunting responsibility of overseeing   and protecting vast areas of land. At the forefront are the DELTA teams stationed along   the reserve's borders, tirelessly patrolling  the electrified and sensor-laden perimeter fence. This initial line of defence  is pivotal, as early detection is paramount   in preventing attacks and preserving the  integrity of the reserve's ecosystem.

[APU] Yeah, my teammates,  it's just like a family. Yeah,   we are just like brothers now. I like  working together. Teamwork, yeah teamwork. Venturing deeper into the heart of the reserve, we encounter the dedicated teams  of Rangers, known as TANGO. S trategically deployed throughout the property.  These highly trained individuals undertake patrols   along tactical routes, immersing themselves in  the wilderness for days at a time to detect and   deter criminal activity within the reserve's  borders.

Operating in areas often inaccessible   to all but wildlife, these Rangers serve as  the vigilant guardians of the reserve. [APU] Just living in the bush, it's quite  good because now I've been there for long,   now I'm used to it. There's no pressure on me now.  I like it. Because here, there's no human movement   that distributes that much. Only interested in  animal movement. And that's nature movement.   What you can hear maybe, it's a branch broken,  the sound of a bird, the sound of an animal.  

That's only what you can hear. Natural. There's  nothing like human-made noise or whatever. In addition to the DELTA & TANGO Teams, our  surveillance extends to daily inspections of   every waterhole, a critical strategy  given that poachers often attempt to   track rhinos from these vital sources.  These inspections are carried out by our   Standby Teams, equipped with vehicles  to swiftly respond to any emergencies   across the property. Ensuring the  smooth operation of these efforts requires   meticulous logistical planning, overseen  by Herman. As the logistical coordinator,   Herman is responsible for managing the supply  chain, ensuring that the various Anti-Poaching   Units (APU) sites, known as ECHO, receive  their weekly provisions without interruption. [HERMAN] So I have a bit of time just  to come and inspect a bit of my echo and my   guys in the field and also the guys who walk  my fences. How are you guys? All good. Here's  

There's your food for the week.   As night falls over the reserve, our  dedicated teams transition into their   evening routines. Some gather materials  to construct their temporary camps, while   others return to their observation posts, where  they will rotate shifts throughout the night. [ APU] We sleep a bit far in the  bush so that we will not give away our   positions to poachers or animals/dangerous  game.. So now we are going to move to echo  

where we spend our night. This is our camp  site, we call it echo, that's our coms code.   We just moved here a day ago. We chose this  area, it's nice, not rocky, we have shade,   we really feel comfortable sleeping here. How  are you? All good, all good. What's in the pot?   Potatoes. He likes jokes. Mostly he comes when we  are preparing our food, he can join us sometimes. [HERMANN] Copy that. Thank you.  Have a safe night. Zero out. Hermann's duties call him back  onto the road. His mission:  

to visit each team dispersed across  the reserve before darkness descends.   This crucial task ensures that all teams are  accounted for and equipped for the night ahead. [APU] We found interesting fresh tracks of   pangolin. We're trying to  track it but it went far. [APU] Have a good night. 

However, there comes a time each month when  the rhythm of life in the reserve shifts,   and a heightened sense of vigilance takes  hold. This is the week of the full moon. [APU] To me, the full Moon is a  problem because this is a big target   of poachers. They normally come  full moon. They target there,   they are also smart. They always targeted the  full moon. So they easily enter the reserve. Traditional tracking  methods may be limited at night,   modern technology offers a solution to  mitigate risks for our dedicated Rangers. [YONA] Full moon is that poachers are active at  night and we don't really have measures to fight   them at night except for modern technology  like this thermal drone, which helps us a   great lot to be able to chase poachers off the  dark because normally when sun sets, you know,   you can't read tracks. So the next best thing  is a drone which can see at night and once I   locate the poacher with the drone, I am able  to log that coordinate and then send that to   the anti-poaching unit and they can just zone in  on the poacher and get him. But also it's great  

to do some monitoring on animals. It's just  another measure of defence against poaching   that the poacher needs to keep in mind. You  know, we have a drone but when are we flying?   Nobody knows. Despite the implementation of our comprehensive  security system and the considerable risks   associated with poaching, it remains imperative  to reduce the incentive for anyone attempting to   harm a Rhino. Regrettably, this brings us to  our next critical topic: "Rhino Dehorning."

[YONA] Hello everyone, we're going to  do a dehorning operation on Onguma in   collaboration with the Ministry of Environment,  Forestry and Tourism and we're going to dehorn   all our Rhino on Onguma. We use dehorning as  a tool in our toolbox of anti-poaching. As you   can see the chopper arrived behind  me, so let's get on with the job. Every few years in Namibia, a discreet operation  takes place: the Dehorning of Black Rhinos. This   procedure, shrouded in secrecy due to the rhinos'  status as state property, requires specialized   authorization under the Custodianship Program.  Under this program, the government selects the areas  where rhinos reside and funds the operation,   while each reserve covers additional expenses,  primarily dedicated to rhino protection. Today,  

under the watchful eye of the Ministry  Of Environment, Forestry & Tourism,   the operation unfolds with precision. The  Ground Team, led by the Onguma APU and   supported by the Namibian Defense Force, follows  the Ministry's vehicle in a convoy. Meanwhile,   in the air, Yona coordinates via radio,  guiding the pilot and veterinarian to   areas with a high probability of encountering  Black Rhinos across the expansive property.   Once a rhino is spotted, the Ground Team  moves into position. The veterinarian aims   to dart the animal swiftly to minimize stress.  Within minutes, the sedative takes effect,  

allowing the team to approach the rhino safely.  The pilot manoeuvres the aircraft to facilitate   rapid access for the Ground Team, ensuring the  subsequent steps of the dehorning process are   executed swiftly and efficiently to  minimize any distress to the animal. [YONA] It’s a kind of a game between the  ground team and the air team that if the   rhino goes to sleep in the road it's a bottle of  whiskey for the air train team. So that's always   fun having to try and get the animals close to  the road, but maybe sounds fun, but it's very very   crucial so the ground team can reach it quickly.

As the operation progresses, each team  member executes their role with precision,   adhering to the standard operating procedures  established for rhino dehorning. The immediate   area is cleared of distracting  branches, and the rhino's ears   and eyes are covered to minimize stimulation.  The veterinarian meticulously collects blood,   hair, and skin samples for DNA registration, while  also applying individual marks, known as notches,   to each ear for future identification purposes.  Meanwhile, another team focuses on measuring   various anatomical details before carefully  removing the rhino's horn. The horn is then   sealed in a registered bag and transported  under police escort to the ministry's main   depot. Additional steps, which cannot be  shown, are undertaken before the team swiftly 

returns to their vehicles, aiming to vacate the  area within 15 minutes. As the vet administers   the reversal injection to expedite the rhino's  recovery, the air unit springs into action,   ensuring they are airborne before the  rhino regains consciousness. Once airborne,   a quick aerial check confirms the rhino's recovery  before the team proceeds to the next target.

[YONA] For the poacher it is about risk and  reward. By adding anti-poaching and a fence   tracker team and drones and cameras and all that,   that increases the risk of being caught. And  in the same breath you can say you take away   the reward and that is the rhino horn.  So if they shoot a rhino that's dehorned,  

they're going to have less income. So I believe  that it's a very valuable tool that we use and it works. It shows that it works. We haven't had  that poachers came to shoot a dehorned rhino. Throughout the day, the dehorning  operation maintains a steady pace,   typically averaging around 2 Rhinos  per hour. However, as the days progress  

and more individuals are dehorned, the task  becomes increasingly challenging. With fewer   viable candidates remaining, ground units  often find themselves with more downtime,   providing an opportunity to rest  and seek shade under the trees. [YONA] If you ask me, I would like to get on  Onguma to a point where we don't need to dehorn,   that our anti-poaching efforts are strong enough  and we feel comfortable enough that we can protect   the horn or the rhinos even with their horns on.  Because I mean, nobody, nothing and nobody needs  

a rhino horn but a rhino. So it would be nice  to be able to show guest rhinos with horns on. Managing a private reserve requires the careful  consideration of environmental factors such as   the analysis of recent Game Count data. With a  clearer understanding of our game numbers and   the measures in place for their protection,  it's time to turn our attention to a more   comprehensive study that serves as the cornerstone  for many of the reserve's management decisions.

[MANU] Today I'll give  you some insight about our work on Onguma   to contribute towards global conservation efforts. Conservation is extremely challenging  because we are charged with the protection of a   system that is so complex that we don't even  understand it. It's far older than anything   that is man made and we all surely never  understand it completely. We may well have  

a good indication of some of the drivers that  operate within the property such as vegetation   dynamics and herbivores in space and that’s what  we can collect data on and that we can use to   generate management decisions. But for instance  the soil biota or any micro organic activities   that happen behind me, we have no idea of  it and we cannot really manage it either. Here at Onguma, our approach to conservation  begins with a deep understanding of our   vegetation, recognizing it as the primary driver  for ecosystem recovery. Given the vast expanse   of the reserve, we divide it into 58 plots to  facilitate thorough analysis. By examining a   multitude of variables within these plots,  we enhance the precision of our management   strategies and outcomes. Let's delve into a  few examples of the 14 factors we scrutinize:

• Vegetation Cover: We assess the  species composition of grasses,   bushes, and trees present in each plot. • Encroachment: We evaluate the diversity   and density of vegetation within an area. • Soil Type: We categorize the soil composition,   distinguishing between rocky,  sandy, or saline soils. Leveraging satellite imagery, we generate  a detailed vegetation map of the reserve,   achieving a remarkable accuracy of 4 square  metres. While this process is time-consuming and   requires annual updates, it provides invaluable  insights into the distribution of plant species   and their ecological dynamics. Our understanding of vegetation dynamics is  

complemented by aerial game counts and birding  patrols, offering a holistic perspective on both   vegetation health and wildlife populations. In our  ongoing quest for a comprehensive understanding   of the ecosystem dynamics within Onguma, the  movement patterns of our animal populations   emerge as a focal point. Herbivore migrations,  in particular, hold immense significance,   given their pivotal role in regulating  grazing pressure and ecosystem balance. While  bushland habitats remain relatively resilient,  grasslands, once prevalent, have succumbed to   widespread conversion for agricultural purposes.  Recognizing the critical importance of water   sources in shaping animal movement, especially  during the dry season, we have equipped each   of our 22 waterholes with surveillance cameras.  Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence,  

these cameras analyze captured images, generating  heat maps that delineate species distribution   and activity zones around these vital watering  points. Over time, as years of data accumulate,   these heat maps provide invaluable insights  into the utilization patterns of these areas by   different species. It's important to note that all  game numbers are relative to the total population,   allowing us to contextualize our findings within  the broader ecological context of the reserve. [MANU] By constantly accumulating the data,   storing it, analyzing it and visualizing  it, it enables our reserve manager to   revisit any point in time of the data that  has been collected in the previous years. In the final stage of our conservation efforts,  we integrate our vegetation study, which   examines biomass distribution, with our wildlife  spatial analysis. By overlaying these datasets,   we can determine whether each plot in the reserve  possesses the appropriate carrying capacity for   its respective species. This crucial analysis  enables us to identify areas where overgrazing  

may be occurring and where habitat recovery is  needed. In some cases, this may necessitate the   relocation of certain species to different  parts of the reserve, allowing ecosystems   time to regenerate naturally. Furthermore,  this integrated approach provides insights   into the overall carrying capacity of the entire  reserve, indicating whether adjustments are needed   to ensure ecological balance across the landscape.  This brings us to our next topic: "Game Capture." Our comprehensive studies have revealed  an imbalance in the population dynamics   of zebras and giraffes within the reserve. To  address this issue, we have devised a plan to   relocate excess individuals to other reserves in  need of population enhancement. This initiative is  

particularly crucial given the disruption  of traditional migration routes by human   infrastructure, such as fences. Our goal is to  relocate 50 zebras and 20 giraffes to the western   side of Etosha National Park. While 20 giraffes  may seem insignificant in comparison to the 400   residing on Onguma, every individual contributes  to the preservation of genetic diversity and the   restocking of other wildlife reserves. The  relocation operation is meticulously planned   and executed over several days, involving  a specialized team of 20 individuals.

[YONA] Cause it's very dangerous  capturing animals that have never   been caught before. Yeah,  they can get very grumpy. As the sun rises on the first  day of the relocation operation,   the specialized capturing Boma is assembled  with precision. Standing six metres tall and   stretching 200 meters from the bush, it forms  a funnel-shaped corridor leading towards the   trucks. Careful consideration has been given to  its location, strategically placed to minimize   the helicopter's travel distance in locating the  targeted animals. Jan, our experienced pilot,  

takes to the skies in a lightweight helicopter,  scanning the landscape for the first group of  zebras. Unlike previous events that required larger helicopters,   this operation calls for a nimble aircraft capable  of quick manoeuvring to guide the animals into  the Boma. As the Zebras approach the entrance  of the Boma, concealed curtains close behind   them, preventing retreat and ensuring forward  movement towards the loading ramp. However, the true test of skill and adrenaline comes at  the loading ramp, where the wild animals must be   coaxed into the trucks. Selecting and grouping  the right individuals is crucial to preventing   injuries, as the natural rivalry between different  groups, can lead to conflict in confined spaces. [YONA] Well, it's been rather quick.  We struggled to get them from the veld,  

but they went well. No injuries,  so I'm always happy about that. As the two trucks carrying a total of 48 zebras  depart for their new location, anticipation   mounts for the successful completion of their  journey. Capturing and transporting Giraffes poses a unique set of  challenges. While specialized trailers have been   prepared for their relocation, the sheer size of  fully grown adults means that careful selection is   required before loading. This process is not  without its risks, as difficulties may arise   during the loading procedure. Given the complexity  and inherent dangers involved, only a highly   experienced team is entrusted with this task. 

[YONA] Well the difficulty  is that we caught a group,   but there are two of them that are a little bit  too big. So we need to filter the young ones   from the older ones and get the older  ones out and the younger ones in. But   there's no going in there and manhandling  them. So, yeah, a bit of trouble now.

As the capture operation  commences for the Giraffes,   the risks inherent become evident. Despite the protective   barriers in place, handlers must remain vigilant  as giraffes are capable of delivering powerful   kicks in an instant.    With each subsequent  group that enters the Boma, the process becomes smoother and more manageable. Recognizing the importance  of minimizing stress and time spent in captivity,   a decision is swiftly made to transport them  to their new wildlife haven without delay. In the realm of nature management, the larger  events such as the Game Count and Capture occur   annually, serving as vital milestones in assessing  and managing wildlife populations. However,  

continuous monitoring throughout the seasons  remains equally crucial for a multitude   of reasons. Let's delve into some of the  intriguing methods implemented for this purpose.  One of the primary tools in monitoring wildlife  at Onguma is the extensive network of trap cameras   strategically positioned at each waterhole.  Unlike animals fitted with collars for tracking,   these cameras provide us with a wealth of data  on wildlife activity and behaviour without   disturbing the natural rhythms of the ecosystem. [YONA] Today is trap camera day and I'm busy   exchanging all the SD cards in our cameras. On  Onguma we have 22 waterholes of which I cover 16   with these motion cameras. At each waterhole  there's at least three cameras placed in the  

security boxes on strategic positions. Between  all the cameras I get up to 80,000 pictures of   wildlife weekly which I go through with my eye.  I'm very very angry at the elephants because   they throw mud on my cameras and then I miss  all the pictures that I'm after. The main goal   of gathering this data is to monitor our black  rhino population and we're looking into numbers,   pregnancies, calves and their general condition.  But it also gives us great insight in our other   game. Monitoring like this plays a major role in  our conservation efforts and like this camera did,  

pick up on undetected poacher activity. At the forefront of our monitoring efforts  is Yona, who utilizes advanced artificial  intelligence to sort through the vast array   of images captured by our trap cameras.  With meticulous attention to detail,   Yona catalogues sightings of rhinos, tracking  their movements and assessing their condition.   Through weekly updates spanning the entire  reserve, management remains informed and prepared   to respond promptly to any injuries or changes  detected in the rhino population. Our guides  

play a crucial role in our monitoring projects,  traversing up to 20% of the reserve during their   daily Game drives. Their keen observations  often lead to encounters with black rhinos,   particularly during sundowners. These sightings  are promptly reported, providing valuable insights   into Rhino behaviour and distribution. 

[LIBERTY] It is very important for us to  communicate this information, this vital  information to our reserve manager because   they are critically endangered animals.  Every information about their healthiness,   the state of condition in which they are, where  we have seen them, days that might have passed   without them being seen. This is all very  important information because it is just   part of a long time data that is being collected. While Yona's primary monitoring activities often   take place travelling the reserve's  roads and designated work areas,   there are certain times of the month that require  his presence elsewhere. Yona finds both joy   and necessity in spending the night outdoors,  choosing to set up camp at one of the reserve's   waterholes. Surrounded by the  sights and sounds of the wilderness, Yona gains a  

first hand perspective on the reserves happenings. [YONA] So it's full moon again and every full moon   or before full moon I sit in my hide to monitor  the rhinos and all other game. And for tonight I   chose this hide. It's my favourite, the ones  that I’ve built, the platforms in the trees,   the elevated hides. They are disguised much  better than any other hide. They are a little  

bit more risky for a leopard to get into.  I'm not that safe up there or if an elephant   decides this branch needs to come down. But I  enjoy it so much every time I do it, a benefit   for me sitting very uncomfortably and monitoring  the black rhinos. If you were wondering why I’m  standing with this and I'm doing monitoring.  Monitoring is nothing to do with a weapon but   it's there for a reason. And I might encounter  some poachers or hear a gunshot or whatever and  

then I'm ready to act without wasting any time. As with other critical points across the reserve,   each of the waterholes serves as a strategic focal  point for monitoring activities, particularly   during full moon nights. These celestial events  offer a unique opportunity to observe wildlife   behaviour, providing invaluable feedback into  their movements and interactions within the ecosystem.

In addition to monitoring the resident  population within the reserve, it is equally   important to track the migration patterns of  animals moving between different regions bordering   the reserve. These migrations play a crucial role  in maintaining genetic diversity and ecosystem   resilience, highlighting the interconnectedness  of habitats across the landscape.  [YONA] Part of the Monitoring is the  cameras on the fence line between us   and Etosha to see how many animals come  in and out you know, cheetahs, leopards,   lions and all that. It's just to monitor the  holes in the fence to see what is their travel.  In our arsenal of conservation tools, we deploy  live cameras to offer real-time updates on the   activity along our reserve's fence line.  These sophisticated surveillance systems  

provide invaluable insights into wildlife  behaviour, human encroachment, and potential   threats to the integrity of our boundaries. [YONA] So this is the third line of monitoring   that we use on Onguma. These cameras are  live cameras so every photo they take,   they send it to our phones with a link and then  we can visit the photo and see who was triggered   or who triggered the camera. Like you can see  here, here is where four of our fences meet. So   that when anybody enters, the camera will pick up  the movement and then take a photo and 55 seconds   later it will send me the SMS. What I might add  is that these cameras are not just for security   but they can also give us information on animals  because we have constantly a leopard coming here   from Etosha. So what happens is these cameras are  programmed with the AI, it sends the picture to  

the server and I'm able to watch it in my office  on the computer. Images of animals walking past.  While the insights gleaned from our Vulture  Monitoring initiative are undeniably fascinating,   they often shed light on concerning  developments that we would prefer to   avoid. To delve deeper into this program  and its significance, we turn to Ruben,   who possesses invaluable expertise in this field. [RUBEN] Well, vultures are very important animals   in the ecosystem. If you want to study what  dies and why it dies and where it dies,   the key is to really look at the vultures. Using  the vultures as a sentinel in the ecosystem,   we can get information when the zebras  died because of anthrax, when the elephants   died because of anthrax, when the giraffes  died because of tannin poisoning and many,   many other species. So by using vultures, we can  have a really good overview of what's happening  

in the ecosystem. And our vultures, the tagged  vultures can fly up to 200 kilometres in a day. So   if you have to spend so much amount of driving and  patrolling around to really find dead carcasses,   it would be very expensive. But we have  like a free sentinel there, where we can   put a 40 gram tag and it can really provide  us very valuable information on the ecosystem.  Finally, we come to the cornerstone of our  conservation efforts: the comprehensive   monitoring system that oversees the entire  reserves ecosystem. This intricate network   involves all teams of wildlife protection  rangers, who diligently patrol the reserve,   documenting their encounters with snares, injured  animals, or any signs of poaching activity. Using   a specialized app called Earth Ranger, these  observations are logged in real-time and reported   directly to reserve and security management. This  system serves as our eyes and ears on the ground,  

allowing us to swiftly respond to threats  and ensure the safety of our wildlife. We have also implemented an initiative that   provides continuous rigorous training for  both new recruits and seasoned veterans,   ensuring that all units are skilled and  capable of combating this ongoing threat.  The training regime spans a comprehensive 5 year  period during which a carefully selected group of   individuals undergoes intensive instructions and  particular exercises. [Herman] Alright guys, today we're going to have   some nice training with the new recruits, some of  them they've never shot a rifle before. So yeah,   we are very excited, so let's go shooting. Participants in our training program undergo  an intensive regimen that encompasses a blend of  physical conditioning, theoretical instruction,   and hands-on field experience. With a primary  emphasis on developing crucial skills, the  

program aims to equip individuals with proficiency  in tracking, coordination, radio communication,   and combat techniques. They delve into  theoretical concepts to deepen their   understanding of wildlife behaviour, conservation  principles, and anti-poaching strategies.  [APU] Like the first day for me in the patrol  it was very funny because I was very scared of   those animals because it's for the first time.  I was scared of lions and now there's no problem   anymore. Lion is very simple, just charge you.  Lion- there's no problem with a lion because he   can charge you. It warns you! Lion is easier  than a Rhino. A Rhino can’t warn you. Yeah... 

[APU] You don't need to be fast because speed  is not that important. Because once you are   walking very fast you can lose the track  but if you are walking slowly you can see   that you have to be concentrated on that. You  don't need to walk that much fast in the bush.  We find Yona, back in the field, where he  demonstrates the art of laying tracks to   be followed by the trainees. This exercise  not only sharpens their tracking abilities   but also underscores the significance of  attention to detail and stealth in their work. 

[YONA] If you track a poacher, keeping up  with the poachers is the biggest challenge.   So tactics and strategies and times when  they enter and how they find a rhino.   Mostly it's just entering hoping they walk into  one, shoot it and get out. If they don't find one  

they go to a waterhole. And then track the fresh  tracks until they find it and then they kill it.  The most recent attempt to poach one of  Onguma's rhinos occurred in 2022, serving   as a stark reminder of the persistent threat posed  by poachers. Despite the tireless efforts of our   dedicated wildlife protection teams, this incident  underscores the ongoing challenges faced in   combating poaching activities and highlights the  need for continued vigilance and enhanced security   measures to safeguard the rhino population. [APU] We were just on a normal patrol.  We were given the task to go and patrol just  in the field. Then on the way I discovered  

the tracks of the poachers. Then we tracked them  until we found them. One guy shot at us,  then we shot back at him. I felt very scared.  [YONA] Evidence of that day. Even though  the police have done their investigation,   one empty shotgun shell stayed behind. Following his arrest, he received medical   treatment at a nearby hospital and eventually  recuperated from his injuries. Beneath the  

picturesque facade often associated with safari  experiences, lies a harsh reality: the relentless   struggle to safeguard vulnerable wildlife from  illegal activities, such as poaching. The truth   is that many species face grave threats to  their existence due to human exploitation.  Fortunately, due to the tireless efforts of our  dedicated teams and the successful apprehension   of numerous criminals in the past, attempts by  poachers to target our property have declined.   Onguma has long served as a sanctuary  for a thriving black rhino population,   a testament to our unwavering commitment to  conservation and protection efforts. Now,  

with great pride and anticipation, we prepare for  our final significant event: the introduction and   repopulation of the white rhino on Onguma.  Our journey takes us to Ongava, a Private  Nature Reserve located along the southern   border of Etosha National Park. Renowned for  its robust population of White Rhinos, Ongava   serves as a crucial hub for the conservation of  this endangered species. Unlike Black Rhinos,   White Rhinos in Namibia can be privately  owned, yet stringent measures are in place   to ensure their protection and welfare. Under the stewardship of Ongava's Reserve  Management, a carefully selected pair  of White Rhinos has been chosen for  relocation. Once fully immobilized, the Rhinos undergo standard procedures, including the collection of necessary samples for genetic analysis and health assessments. 

To minimize stress and facilitate their  journey, the Rhinos are not fully awakened   but instead carefully guided into  specialized transport containers.   With precision timing, both Rhinos are prepared   for transport simultaneously. [YONA] Today we are at Ongava Nature Reserve   and we just loaded two white rhino bulls  that we got from them. It's two males and   they were always buddies, always walking  together so we didn't want to split them   up and we decided to take both of them.  For the survival of the species I think   it's essential to move rhinos to secure areas  where the population just can breed and breed   and breed and become more and more animals  because they are safe, as safe as the APU   can make them. Always challenges of poachers  coming to try and get them but we're getting   stronger in our units and we're going to try and  start a new population of white rhino on Onguma. 

The process of relocating animals is a daunting  endeavour, particularly for the individuals   themselves. Upon being carefully loaded into  transport containers, the journey commences   immediately, embarking on a four-hour drive  through the vast expanse of the Park. With a special permit allowing for a swift pace,   the transport team navigates the terrain  with precision, mindful of the vital need   for air circulation within the containers  amidst the high temperatures outside. As the sun begins its descent, the convoy reaches its  destination on the eastern side of our reserve,   arriving at a peaceful waterhole known as  Rhino Bath. This waterhole offers the perfect   environment for the Rhinos to replenish  themselves with ample food and water.  With utmost care, the team gently  releases the Rhinos from their confines,   marking the culmination of months  of anticipation and preparation. 

Over the next few weeks, they will explore  the vast expanse of their new surroundings,   gradually establishing their home range. [YONA] Welcome guys, welcome to Onguma.  To be kind of in charge of their safety  and their survival, because it's a new area.   They've been travelling for a long time.  We drove them all the way through Etosha,  

for the whole day. They were partly sedated,  so there's so many things that can go wrong,   like a new area. It's different water they  drink. Their stomach might be upset. They   don't find food that they're used to. So  maybe they get constipated. There are so   many other things that I had to monitor,  but it was fun, although it was stressful.  Vaguely aware of Yona’s system by which you  name your Rhino’s, what have you decided to   call the newest members to the Onguma family?! [YONA] I have two brothers and they are my support   pillars in a way. And so yeah, I named them  after my two brothers, Hendrik and Cornelis. 

They are much more easy with guests,  so a Black Rhino is very angry and in the   bush and the browser, he’s in the thickets  and doesn't want to be seen actually. Where   the white rhinos are grazers, he's out in  the open and you get to spot them easier.  Game drives, conducted for only a limited duration  each day strictly adhere to the principle of no   off-road driving. While the presence of endangered  species like the White Rhinos enhances the tourism  

experience, the choice of habitat remains entirely  at the discretion of the animals themselves.  In this delicate balance between  human visitors and resident wildlife,   Onguma exemplifies a commitment to ethical  and sustainable ecotourism practices.  In today's conservation landscape,   the primary support for protected areas often  stems from visitors, particularly through the   avenue of eco-tourism. While we've delved  into the unseen efforts behind the scenes   of wildlife reserves, let's now explore the  more tangible aspects visible to guests.  Eco-tourism necessitates the establishment of  additional infrastructure to enhance the guest   experience. This entails various sub-departments  dedicated to tasks such as grading roads,   maintaining waterholes, establishing emergency  stockpiles for droughts, and upkeeping fences,   among other responsibilities. These  efforts are crucial for ensuring that  

visitors can fully immerse themselves  in the natural beauty of the reserve,   while contributing to its conservation goals. [YONA] At the moment I'm busy playing welder   and I'm welding on these offsets on the Etosha  fence and the reason we do that is to be able   to control the elephant numbers coming in from  the park because at the moment we have too many   elephants. Rainy season they will leave again but  after the rainy season when it dries up a little   bit they will enter again and we cannot handle  the amount of elephants that want to be here.   So we need to put up measures to be able  to control the elephant numbers on Onguma. 

While we cherish the opportunity to witness  herds of Elephants in their natural habitat,   our research indicates the  need to carefully assess the   impact on available biomass. Additionally,  managing the aftermath of their presence,   such as clearing debris left  behind, presents both challenges   and opportunities for conservation efforts. [YONA] Another job with the reserve management   is removing trees that the elephants throw  in the tourist roads. Number one and behind   me you can see the guys who cause so much  more work for reserve managers. Number two  

reported by our guides. Hello old boy, will you  please tell the younger guys to stop destroying everything! Tell them I want to work with them. Number 3. At least eat the tree when you push it  overand when you push it over not in the road please! Now I'm getting pissed! Number 5. Sometimes it gets very very difficult to  in a way find the motivation to keep going but I   think the main reason I keep doing it is I'm  just too passionate about, yeah every time I   have a down day or a tough day then you know  I go through my rhino pictures and I forget   about all the stress and all of that and yeah I  think it’s if you're passionate about something   not really anything can stop you from doing it.

At the heart of ecotourism lies the vital link   between reserve management and guests,  facilitated by knowledgeable guides.  Our guides serve as ambassadors of conservation,  providing guests with authentic insights   into the reserve's ecological significance. They actively engage in conservation initiatives themselves,   and are uniquely positioned to convey guests'  requests or preferences to reserve management.  [GUIDES & YONA] A Sundowner Spot there? Yes.  Okay what do we call it? Camp Kala Spot.  

Yeah Camp Kala Sundowner. Yes because this  one we are calling it Umaramba the Fort so   if there is a proposal one day that we can go  with it and set up a table like that there? [FRANS] Both the APU & me as a guide actually  we all of us are playing a significant role by   protecting this wildlife that we  have and preserving. With that,   I'm the person sending the message to the  guest communicating through because they can't   communicate directly with the APU so I'm the one  that informs them and also explains to them why   the APU is there and what role they are playing. [LIBERTY] When you go out with me on our nature   reserve you learn everything about our  reserve conservation of Namibia. How it is  

actually practised here at Onguma. Wildlife  such as lions. We think of how we actually   furthermore protect our black rhino. How we  introduced our white rhino... There is just a   little bit that I just told you but there are  more, many more stories you can learn about.  Over the past two decades, eco-tourism has  emerged as a successful model for integrating   environmental conservation with Namibia's  economy. Through sustainable practices and   responsible tourism initiatives, this approach has  demonstrated its effectiveness in promoting both   the preservation of the natural environment  and the growth of the nation's economy.  [MANU] In southern Africa we say if it pays it  stays and that translates the concept very well   and that is one big misconception that many  conservationists from the global north share,   that we can conserve without using and that  has led to situations that become a little   bit difficult for conservationists in the global  south. The spatial scale at which conservation  

needs to happen encompasses areas that have  the size of European countries. For instance,   Etosha National Park behind me has the size of  two million hectares, that's half the size of   Switzerland. And that’s problematic because most  of the global conservation bodies or institutions   that do most of the decision making on a global  scale when it comes to conservation are home in   the global north. The scale at which conservation  happens is smaller and the areas are economically   stronger, so there's not such an immediate  need for income. Here in southern Africa, it’s  

crucial for the coexistence of conservation and  livelihoods to generate money from conservation.  In response to this opportunity, Onguma  Nature Reserve has implemented a sustainable   conservation initiative known as the  Conservation Levy. Under this system,   a percentage of each guest's spending  is allocated towards various programs   dedicated to preserving our place on this Planet.

[LIBERTY] Whenever you are with me or any other   fellow colleagues of mine on our Nature Reserves  activities, part of what you have invested to be   with us here on our reserve is going towards the  APU. Remember, APU stands for anti-poaching unit.   This is a very crucial team. Importantly,  your stay here is not just about beautiful   memories and beautiful accommodation, but you  are making a difference while being on holiday.

[APU] The importance of this work is to keep the  Nature, because there's a generation coming from   behind. The younger generation. if we leave the  wildlife to be poached and everything like that,   those younger generations will find  nothing. Everything may be going to   be extinct. Especially rhinos and lions and  those things. There will be only pictures.  In our exploration of nature reserve  management, we've provided a glimpse   into the dedicated individuals working  tirelessly towards a larger conservation   goal. Despite the inherent complexity of this  topic, our aim is to shed light on the often   overlooked world of hands-on conservationists.

[YONA] Conservation as a whole is a very big   term and very broad, I want to say, occupation,  if you will. But it all boils down to a few men and women that put their lives at risk to be able  to show the rest of the world a piece of Africa   and certain species that's endangered. You know,  we are able to showcase to the rest of the world   what we do. Not everybody understands the hard  work that goes into everything and the little   things that you might not think of. And yes it can be funded. Funds are one thing, but without people   whose hearts are in it, those funds mean nothing.

[APU] We decided to come here to protect the   Rhinos. We heard people are poaching Rhinos.  Now we decide to go and defend our Rhinos   because if we didn’t - the next generation  will never know. It will be just a history.

2024-06-06 01:34

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