July 2013 – Thanks to the generous donation from Empowers Africa to the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, 10-year old Namagogodo, a black rhino from the Liwonde National Park in Malawi, was darted last month and fitted with a new satellite and VHF transponder. This will ensure that the Park’s rhino monitors are equipped to observe the rhino and ensure its safety, especially as Namagogodo had moved out of the sanctuary and was fairly far south in the Park, making him vulnerable to potential poachers.
“We were delighted with the support from Empowers Africa which enabled us to fund the flights and costs for Dr Peter Morkel, one of Africa’s most highly respected veterinarians, to get to Liwonde and ensure the success of this operation. We spent five days in the Park in the hope of darting two rhino but were thrilled with the success of locating Namagogodo and fitting him with a new transmitter”, said Trustee Russel Friedman.
Like many others in Africa, the small population of black rhino in Liwonde is severely threatened by poaching. This, coupled with the limited resources of Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife in continuing its protection, necessitated the launch of the Trust’s Liwonde Rhino Protection Project in 2012.
The Trust provided both VHF and satellite collars, while Dr Pete Morkel darted and collared the rhino, taking DNA samples as well. Bentley Palmer from Blantyre organised funding for a temporary three-strand fence, African Parks provided trackers and a dart gun and the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife supplied a team of scouts to assist in finding the rhino.
In a three-week spell of intense tracking in blistering heat, seven rhino were darted and collared, putting them under constant satellite surveillance. A rhino monitoring team was set up to observe and record their movements, with a vehicle donated by the Trust to assist in ongoing rhino monitoring and research. Krisztián Gyöngyi, a graduate student with experience in monitoring and studying black rhino, is stationed in Liwonde to monitor the animals.