History of Save the Waterberg Rhino
It was December 2011, when poachers infiltrated the reserve and killed a white rhino cow and her baby. Although security was instantly increased on the reserve with specific rhino security, in July 2012 another white rhino cow was killed, her 18 month old baby, Max, did manage to escape. Tessa knew then without immediate action she would lose more rhino. She then embarked on speaking to rhino conservationists and security experts to find out what she could do and the result of all the consultations was the creation of Save the Waterberg Rhino; an organisation dedicated to tackling poaching through a collective approach.
All reserves are exposed and vulnerable if they are only looking after their own patch and not working together with their neighbours and other stakeholders. This was the impetus and motivation for setting up the organisation and also its key objective to bring all stakeholders together to tackle rhino poaching. This also allowed resources to be pulled together to maximise the effort to stop poachers. Also up until only recently STWR was the only rhino-related organisation providing any support to rhino owners in the Waterberg. All focus from government as well as national rhino organisations was for Kruger National Park area and Kwa Zulu Natal, leaving the Waterberg rhino owners vulnerable and on their own to tackle poaching.
As a result, rhino owners had to incur the extra security costs to protect rhino, sell their rhinos or leave them defenceless against poachers. Many owners opted to sell their rhinos as they could not afford the costs of security and this resulted in available rhino habitat decreasing; another threat to rhino conservation and population numbers. STWR wanted to prevent this and therefore gave support to rhino owners and stakeholders in the area.
Save the Waterberg Rhino was first hosted as a project under the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. It was then registered as a independent not-for-profit NGO and Public Benefit Organisation in 2016 in order to best serve its donors and supporters.
Along with Tessa Baber (Founder), the board of STWR has been made up of local key role-players involved with or connected to rhino conservation.
The 18 month old calf, who survived the second poaching incident, even though he was dehydrated and severely traumatised, calling for his dead mom when he was found, was named ‘Lucky Max’ and inspired the STWR logo.
Working to protect and save rhino