Network Namibia is an annual evening event hosting 750 people with an interest in Africa. The theme of the evening will be the success of conservation efforts in Namibia and specifically the Black Rhino. Special guests will delight you with their stories and experiences on this subject in the main theatre. The event opens with a complimentary Namibian drink on arrival, there is time to take in the historic grounds of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) building browsing at various Namibian features. These will include;
Garth Owen-Smith and Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, conservationist and anthropologist, are people of rare vision. More than two decades ago during the darker years in what was then called the Koakoveld, now Kunene Region, in a time of war, drought, poaching and apartheid they went against current conservation thinking that saw local people as 'the problem'. They believed that communities who lived with wildlife were, in fact, part of the solution. Wildlife had been alienated from local people by colonial conservation policies and the only way communities could benefit from what was previously theirs was to poach it. If local ownership was restored to communities, wildlife might survive.
Garth and Margie formed the non-government organisation Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation to facilitate and promote this philosophy. Today, many local and international awards later, IRDNC's early pilot projects have grown into a government supported national Namibian conservancy program involving one in five rural Namibians. By 2009 communities had registered 55 conservancies and another 25 were in the process.
The desert-adapted black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) surviving in the Kunene Region (former Damaraland and Kaokoland) in the arid, north-west of Namibia are the only rhino worldwide, surviving on communal land with no formal conservation status. Furthermore, they are the largest truly free-ranging black rhino population left in the world.
However, in the early 1980's in this vast, beautiful and spectacular desert, a savage slaughter of desert wildlife took place. As the number of rhinos shrank, resulting in their near extinction, a Trust was formed with the aim of ensuring protection of the remaining rhinos while affording, elephant and other wildlife, the chance to recover to sustainable numbers. With the help of international funds, Save the Rhino Trust - Namibia was officially registered as Welfare Organization number W.O. 53.in 1982.
SRT has an administrative office in Swakopmund, and field bases at Palmwag, Mbakondja and the Ugab River at Brandberg West. The organisation is led by Rudi Loutit, aided by a committed staff of local Namibians who have spent the better part of their lives living with black rhinos in the Kunene. These dedicated people constantly monitor on foot, with camels, by air and by vehicle in a concerted effort to protect these rare and critically endangered animals.