Duiker Rescue

Freedom for a Rescued Duiker

Illegal Wildlife Trade and Keeping - an injustice to our Wildlife:

The Illegal Wildlife Trade is carrying on right under our noses. In South Africa it is illegal to keep a wild animal without a permit. Especially in semi-urban areas (such as on small-holdings) it is becoming a real problem, because only a handful of these animals ever get the chance at freedom. Many plot (smallholding) owners think it is normal to have a wild animal like a Duiker, Tortoise or Meerkat as a pet. It normally results in tragedy for the animals, and is doing the greatest injustice to the Wild animals we are supposed to respect and protect. Dezzi was lucky. He got out.

Freedom is just beyond the crate!

*Dezzi was rescued from the illegal #WildlifeTrade on Social Media. He doesn't realize it yet, but his life is about to become magical - just like Nature intended. Read on for the story!
This is the unforgettable moment when we set #DezziTheDuiker free into his new #Wild #ForeverHome.

Releasing Dezzi The Duiker into his new forever free home ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

#DezziTheDuiker, Rescued & Released back to the Wild.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation was called in to confiscate a 2-year old Duiker Ram that was illegally kept and advertised for sale on Social Media.
The Duiker had become aggressive - as so often happens when wild animals outgrow their 'cuteness'.
Two site visits later, and many hundreds of kilometers driven, we finally arrived at the site to complete the rescue. Dezzi was darted (sedated) before loading. Dr. Van Niekerk, our vet, also administered antibiotics and a booster shot.
A couple of health stops later, we arrived at his new home.
He was released in the first camp; to be released into the rest of the 1500ha reserve once he could find adequate food. At first, he was uncomfortable with the long veld grass against his flanks - he had only ever walked on mowed lawn. He seemed entranced by the smell of shrubs and dust, and the rocky outcrop underneath his tiny, perfect hooves. It was fascinating to watch him explore the veld inside the holding camp. We hope he'll choose his new lady love soon, from two female Duikers here.
Instinct is a strong force, though, and it was activated only a few minutes after he left the crate. He surveyed his new domain carefully, taking in the smells and the feelings, checking out the boundaries of his camp. Then he bounded over the long grass, testing out his little hooves and legs built for just that.
Two weeks after the release, we have the following update: "Dezzi has been released into the main Reserve. Dezzi is truly at home. No longer needing the supplementary feed left out for him, he only returns like a phantom, to patrol his domain. He only leaves spoor (tracks) now, and is loving his new life."

Watch the Video here:

Dezzi is free, finally.
Go well, Dezzi, live your life free and wild.
Thank you to our kind donors who made this rescue possible.
*In South Africa it is illegal to keep a wild animal without a permit. Don't be that person.
If anyone is in a position to donate towards our continued mission to help wildlife in need, we would be sincerely grateful. We love to help animals whenever possible, but in order to continue our life-saving work, we need the support of the public.
There are several options for you to support us below:
❤ South Africans can also EFT here:
FNB / Cheque Account
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
Account number - 62518554101
Branch Code - 250-655
❤ All donations, no matter the amount, are desperately needed and will be greatly appreciated ❤
WHWF is a registered NPO Reg:147-339 and
Public Beneficiary Organisation Reg: 930051372

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Southern Africa’s Ivory

The values of Zimbabwe’s and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstated, and their proposed sale would lead to another poaching epidemic.

Last year the world reacted in shock when Namibia announced plans to auction off 170 live elephants to the highest bidder.

Despite criticism, the plans have continued to move forward — and that may just be the start. Tucked away in a Feb. 1 press release justifying the auction was a rehash of the country’s oft-repeated desire to also sell ivory. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s stated:

Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which if traded internationally could support our elephant conservation and management for decades to come.”

Namibia is not alone in this desire to capitalize on its wildlife. In Zimbabwe’s national assembly last year, the minister of environment valued the country’s stockpile of 130 metric tonnes (143 tons) of ivory and 5 tonnes (5.5 tons) of rhino horn at $600 million in U.S. dollars. This figure, which would value ivory at more than $4,200 per kilogram, has since been seized upon by commentators seeking to justify the reintroduction of the ivory trade.

I’m an environmental accountant dedicated to ethical conservation, so I wanted to understand these numbers and how they motivate countries. In truth, I found not even full black-market value comes close to arriving at this figure.

Black-market values are, of course, often invisible to the general public, but the most recent data from criminal justice experts finds that unworked (or raw) elephant ivory sells for about $92/kg on the black market in Africa, while rhino horn is currently selling for $8,683/kg.

Therefore, a more realistic valuation of Zimbabwe’s ivory stockpiles, using an optimistic wholesale price of $150/kg, would give a potential income of only $19.5 million in U.S. dollars.

This is a 30th of Zimbabwe’s estimate.

And even then, those numbers fail to account for the disaster that would happen if ivory sales return — as we saw in the all-too-recent past.

The One-Off Sales

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, following a 10-year period in which African elephant numbers declined by 50%, from 1.3 million to 600,000. However, in 1999 and 2008 CITES allowed “one-off sales” of stockpiled ivory, to disastrous effect. The selling prices achieved then were only $100/kg and $157/kg, in U.S. dollars respectively, due to collusion by official Chinese and Japanese buyers.

Photo: Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The intention of CITES in approving the one-off ivory sales was to introduce a controlled and steady supply of stockpiled ivory into the market. The legal supply, coupled with effective systems of control, aimed to satisfy demand and reduce prices. This in turn should have reduced the profitability of (and the demand for) illegal ivory. Poaching should have followed suit and decreased.

Instead, the sales led to an increase in demand and, consequently, an increase in elephant poaching. The 2008 ivory sale was accompanied by a 66% increase in illegally traded ivory and a 71% increase in ivory smuggling. An investigation in 2010 by the Environmental Investigation Agency documented that 90% of the ivory being sold in China came from illegal sources.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comparison of elephant poaching figures for the five years preceding and five years following the sale showed an “abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in poaching.

The problem has not faded away. Most recently the two African elephant species (savanna and forest) were declared endangered and critically endangered due to their continued poaching threat.

Illegal ivory. Photo: Gavin Shire / USFWS

Still, some African nations look fondly at the 2008 sale and have long hoped to repeat it. The Zimbabwe Ministry’s 2020 statement follows yet another proposal to the 18th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP18) by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to trade in live elephants and their body parts, including ivory. The proposal was not accepted by the parties.

Why Didn’t Ivory Sales Work?

The one-off sales of ivory removed the stigma associated with its purchase, stimulated the market demand, and increased prices.

The ivory that China purchased in 2008 for $157/kg was drip-fed by the authorities to traders at prices ranging between $800 and $1,500 per kilogram. This meant that the bulk of the profits went to filling Chinese government coffers — not to African nations — and in doing so, created a large illegal market which drove prices even higher.

Raw ivory prices in China increased from $750/kg in 2010 to $2,100/kg in 2014. The market had been stimulated, prices increased and the volume of legal ivory available was insufficient to meet demand as the Chinese government gradually fed its stockpile into the market.

Japan, the other participant in the one-off sales, has systematically failed to comply with CITES regulations, meaning that there were (and still are) no controls over ivory being sold,  allowing the illegal markets to function in parallel to the legal one.

In a very short space of time, criminals ramped up poaching and elephant numbers plummeted.

What Has Happened to the Price of Ivory Since Then?

With no recent legal international sales, combined with the significant U.S., Chinese and United Kingdom domestic ivory sales bans, the price for raw ivory paid by craftsmen in China fell from $2,100/kg in 2014 to $730/kg in 2017. That’s when China closed all of its official ivory carving outlets and theoretically stopped all official ivory trade.

The price currently paid for raw ivory in Asia, according to an investigation by the Wildlife Justice Commission, is currently between $597/kg and $689/kg, in U.S. dollars. Ivory sourced in Africa and sold in Asia has additional costs such as transportation, taxes and broker commissions. The prices paid for raw ivory in Africa have decreased correspondingly from $208/kg to $92/kg in 2020.

Those numbers pale in comparison to a living elephant. A 2014 study found that live elephants are each worth an estimated $1.6 million in ecotourism opportunities.

Funding Conservation

One half-truth is that the money earned from the legal sale will be used to effectively fund conservation.

One of the CITES conditions of the 2008 sale was that funds were to go to the conservation of elephants. South Africa placed a substantial portion of the income from its share of the pie in the Mpumalanga Problem Animal Fund — which, it turns out, was well-named. An internal investigation found the fund had “no proper controls” and that “tens of millions” of rand (the official currency of South Africa) had bypassed the normal procurement processes.

Ironically, proceeds were also partly used for the refurbishment of the Skukuza abattoir, where most of the 14,629 elephant carcasses from culling operations between 1967 and 1997 were processed.

All the while, Africa’s elephant populations continued to decline.

How to Stop Poaching

In light of these deficiencies — and in light of elephants’ recently declared endangered status — the very reverse of actual conservation can be expected if any nation is again allowed to sell its ivory stockpiles. The cost of increased anti-poaching efforts required from the consequent increase in poaching will outweigh the benefit of any income from the sale of ivory stockpiles.

To stop poaching, all international and local trade must be stopped.

Photo: Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Repeating this failed experiment will send a message that it is acceptable to trade in ivory. Ivory carving outlets in China will re-open and demand for ivory will be stimulated. The demand for ivory in an increasingly wealthy and better-connected Asia will quickly outstrip legal supply and poaching will increase.

Meanwhile, the management of a legal ivory trade requires strong systems of control at every point in the commodity chain to ensure that illegal ivory is not laundered into the legal market. With recalcitrant Japan continuing to ignore CITES, “untransparent” Namibia “losing tolerance” with CITES, and Zimbabwe ranking 157 out of 179 on the corruption perceptions index, not even the basics for controlled trade are in place.

Therefore, aside from the strong theoretical economic arguments against renewed one-off sales, the practical arguments are perhaps even stronger: If international ivory and rhino horn sales ever again become legal, the cost to protect elephants will skyrocket and these culturally valuable animals will plunge into decline — and possibly extinction.

By Charan Saunders (Conservation Action Trust)

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Captive Bred Lions

Breaking News: Captive Lion Breeding to be Cancelled

Landmark Move to End Captive Lion Breeding:

In an unprecedented move, Minister Barbara Creecy revealed that the Captive Lion Breeding Industry will be shut down. Minister Creecy's delivered her Statement in response to a 582-page High Level Report. This document originates from the work of a Panel of Experts. It scrutinizes the Wildlife Management of certain high-interest sectors, such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants and Rhinos.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation welcomes the move to phase out Captive Lion Breeding:

Habitat-loss and diminishing numbers continue to plague Wild Lions - one of South Africa's most iconic species. Despite widespread  greenwashing, the captive breeding industry does nothing to alleviate their plight. #WHWF welcomes the proposed phasing out of Captive Lion Breeding. We trust that as a result, better protection will be enforced for the Wild Lions. We need to protect the Wild Lions remaining in South Africa, at all costs.

"While we understand that it will take time to phase out the Industry, we are overjoyed at the prospect of Captive Lion Breeding being outlawed and cancelled completely" said Paul Oxton, Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The Captive Lion Breeding Industry has been the thorn in the side of many a Conservationist for at least 3 decades. An industry that generates so much money for the breeders and exploiters, that it seemed impossible to rectify from a purely economical standpoint.

"This shameful exploitative industry has been supplying never-ending streams of lion cubs to pet, feed, and walk - to unsuspecting Tourists falling into this deceitful trap of greed", Said Carina Crayton (aka CJ Carrington), Co-Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

Only in the past twelve years or so have people been awakened to the fact that these cute cubs they are petting, end up in a trophy hunt when their usefulness has expired. Their bones, teeth, claws and skin get sold as replacement for tiger parts in tiger bone wine in Asia.

With one lion being able to generate as much as ZAR 2 million for its owner over its lifetime, the math soon amounts to mind-boggling numbers.

Shocking numbers: Around 2300 Wild Lions remain in South Africa, and they do not benefit one iota from the vile breeding industry. An estimated 10 000 to 12 000 Captive-bred Lions are kept on around 800 Breeding Farms in South Africa. They will all be influenced by move to end captive breeding. It is simply not be possible to rescue, relocate or find homes in sanctuaries for even a small fraction of these lions. Captive bred Lions can never be released, so the phasing out of this practice comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas. When the owners can no longer make ridiculous amounts of money from these lions, they will have no incentive to care for them. These lions are often kept in the most appalling conditions, and merely used as cub-mills. This should not be our legacy, as South Africans. It should never have been allowed to get out of control.

©Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Minister Creecy stated: “The Panel identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade. The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive-breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially. I have requested the department to action this accordingly and ensure that the necessary consultation in implementation is conducted.”

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Maybe, in the near future, this decision will restore the image of the magnificent Lion to what it should be - The King of the Savannah. Hopefully, as a nation, we will learn to once again respect, admire and protect this unique symbol of true Wilderness.

"Perhaps, once this stain has been removed from our Wildlife Industry, we will once again get goosebumps at hearing the roar of Wild Lions through the dense African bush" ~ #WHWF

© CJ Carrington (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The full 582 page report is available here: Lion et al Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling

Minister Creecy's Full Statement can be viewed here: Minister Creecy's Statement - Report from High-Level Panel

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Donation Tax Benefits for South African Tax Payers

Looking for a Good Cause to Support and pay less Income Tax in the Process?

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is a Registered NPO and PBO. All Donations by South African Corporates and Private Taxpayers are eligible for a Section 18(a) Tax Certificate, which will assist in reducing the income tax payable to SARS.

Department of Social Development/Republic of South Africa. Registration No.: 147-339 NPO
SARS Public Beneficiary Organization Registration No : 930051372 PBO

Some of our past Success Stories with regards to WHWF's use of Tax Deductible Donations include:

  1. The sponsoring of our Field Vehicle, and equipping of it for Emergency Wildlife Rescue (Private individuals and Corporates);
  2. The Purchasing of an Anaesthetic Machine and Oxygen bottle system for the Rhino Orphanage;
  3. The Equipping of Theaters for several Emergency Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers, including an Operating Table and Theater Trolley used for Pangolins;
  4. The Purchasing of Capture and Transport Cages for various species of the Wildlife Most at Risk;
  5. The Supply and Equipping of Rangers with specialized Equipment for Anti-Poaching Work;
  6. The Tagging, Tracking and Monitoring of Rhinos as an Anti-Poaching Measure and much more..

We will need the following details to issue your certificate:

  • Date and Amount of Donation,
  • Full Name of Company or Individual,
  • Registration Number of Company or ID number of Individual,
  • Registered Address,
  • Telephone Number and Contact Details (email to send PDF of Tax Certificate).
Please contact us with any questions!

If you're still unsure, please take a look at our Future Plans and Wishlist 🙂

We're available for Corporate Talks and Education!


CoVid19 has wreaked havoc on the world, and as a result, we have lost a lot of Corporate Support. Please consider helping our Organization survive during these trying times!

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is committed to #EthicalConservation and showing our Donors how their Loving Donations are spent.

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Skukuza’s Specialist Anti-Poaching Court to stay Open

After a drawn-out legal battle spearheaded by Naomi Engelbrecht, President of Mpumalanga Regional Court, the High Court has ruled against appeals to enforce the closure of the Court based in Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park.
The Skukuza Court handled the bulk of Rhino Poaching cases until an abrupt announcement in 2017 resulted in Engelbrecht transferring Rhino Poaching cases to the Mhala Court, in a move widely condemned by Anti-poaching Pole Players and Conservationists. The Skukuza Court is heralded as a specialist Anti-poaching Court.
In a Constitutional Court order issued on Monday, 1 February, Engelbrecht’s 2017 announcement to move the Rhino Poaching cases will remain invalid, and leave to appeal denied.
Engelbrecht’s decision was challenged in the North Gauteng High Court, opposed by both the Director of Public Prosecution and Mpumalanga’s High Court Judge President, but this did not prevent her from moving cases during to Mhala within two years. All of her subsequent appeals have failed.
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation commends this ruling, and believes that this decision will greatly aid the effective prosecution of Rhino Poachers.
© Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
Read about shocking new details with regards to KNP Rhino Poaching here:

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Flap-necked Chameleons: Tiny “Ground Lions”

Have you ever been lucky enough to witness one of these beauties cross a road unharmed? Or spotted them in your garden? As with everything fragile, these chameleons are silently becoming more rare, as humans continue to fragment their habitat.

The Flap-Necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and is the biggest of the indigenous Chameleon types, reaching 14 – 20cm in length. There are eight recognized subspecies.

Chameleons are from the Lizard family, and a closer look reveals remarkable dinosaur-like features, such as the head of a mini dragon, prehensile five-toed feet and agile tails, eyes that move independently, not to mention a unique way of catching food!

The 360 degree independent eye movements have the handy benefit of watching their backs while simultaneously hunting for prey. Once potential prey has been spotted, both eyes will fixate on it, with binocular-like vision.  The brain activity switches between eyes every second or so, to not confuse the animal. The eyelids are fused to allow only a small hole through which to see, but the gaze fixes intensely on preferred prey, for an accurate strike.

Chameleons are insect eaters, using their sticky tongues to catch prey like beetles, bugs and grasshoppers. The lightning fast tongue deployment happens at a speed of 3 hundredths of a second. The tongue extends as long as the body. It is fascinating that such a slow-moving animal can provide such an impressive display of speed when on the hunt.

Chameleon Features from left to right: Eyes, Feet, Tongue, Defensive gape, Egg-laying

The swaying, slow gait mimics the swaying of grass in the wind. This helps to camouflage them when at their most vulnerable – on the ground. They are able to change colour faster and in fascinating detail through specialized cells called chromatophores, containing a mixture of pigmented, light-reflecting and melanin cells. Contrary to popular belief, their colour-changing is often a reaction to their moods, or to take full advantage of soaking up the rays of the sun, and not strictly for camouflage as such.

Because they live in trees, finding them on the ground means that they are either looking for a mate, an expanded habitat, or on their way to lay eggs. Unfortunately many flap-necked chameleons get killed by cars when crossing the road. Well-meaning motorists picking them up adds to their mortality, as they die slow deaths when fed flies and kept as pets.

Chameleon carefully crossing the Road © CJ Carrington WHWF

They are a protected species in South Africa - it is not legal for them to be kept without a permit. The road to Sun City outside Rustenburg in South Africa is well-known for illegal selling of wildlife, including chameleons. One should never buy any wildlife offered for sale, as it only stimulates trade, and contributes to extinction. The correct thing to do it to report it to the SPCA who does regular raids on the known trade areas. That is the best chance for these animals to go back into the wild. Sadly, the flap-necked chameleon is in high demand for the international pet trade, being the third most highly traded chameleon species. More than 111,000 individuals were exported between 1977 and 2011, mostly to the USA. Coupled with habitat loss, these figures end up decimating the natural populations.

As with so many of Africa’s vibrant wildlife, superstitions about Chameleons abound. From the idea that they shoot lightning from their eyes, to the belief that they are immortal – these beliefs do very little to protect the species. They are feared and hated among by some people, regarded as a bad omen by others. The only way to fight against this misinformation is to educate people. For instance – the belief that they are immortal, and that chameleon babies are formed by the bones of a dead chameleon, might stem from their habit of digging a hole to lay up to 60 eggs. In the instance of the Flap-necked chameleons, these eggs only hatch in 9 to 12 months, when the hatchlings will dig themselves out of the hole. If the mother didn’t survive, it would surely seem as if the babies came out of her ‘bones’.

When threatened these chameleons will inflate themselves, open their mouths and hiss. They are ready biters too, but although painful, the bites are not venomous. It is no wonder that the word chameleon is the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek khamaileon.  The word derives from khamai (on the ground) and leon (lion) and translates loosely as ‘ground lion’. This refers to the reptile’s intimidating defensive display.

Chameleon survival is threatened by Habitat Loss and Fragmentation, the Illegal Wildlife Trade, Domestic Cats and Natural Predators in the Wild, such as Monkeys and Snakes, Pesticides used in gardens, and Human fear resulting in needless killing.

As with everything wild we would love to protect, the same principles apply: You can help by planting indigenous plants, not using harmful pesticides or insecticides, NOT supporting the Illegal Trade, NOT removing them from the Wild to keep as pets, and Educating people about these tiny, colourful Ground Lions. If you are lucky enough to have a piece of earth to call your own, a more organic lifestyle and gardening habits favour the survival of indigenous wildlife. And maybe, one day, in your own garden, you will find some of these Flap-necked chameleons rolling their eyes at you.

Written by CJ Carrington © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Flap-necked Chameleon easily identifiable via the flap on the neck, and light markings on the flank © Paul Oxton WHWF

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Wry Face – Incredible Survival of Giraffe with Malformed Face

Giraffe with Wry Face Congenital Defect Survives to adulthood!

Wry Face or Wry Nose is a congenital condition (birth defect) which affects certain species of animals, and is most obvious in species with long faces, such as horses and cattle. The condition is normally associated with a cleft palate, which makes suckling a huge challenge for the new-born animal. Depending on the severity of the malformation (slight <5° to severe >60°) lateral deviation, many animals do not make it to adulthood.

It is common for animals born with this condition to have the upper jaw and nose deviated to one side, usually causing the nasal septum (the cartilage plate that separates the right and left nasal passageways) to be deviated as well. This can result in breathing difficulties due to obstruction of the airway. Wry nose is most obvious in species with long faces, such as horses and cattle.

An animal with Wry Face / Wry Nose may have poor alignment (malocclusion) of the teeth and may have difficulty taking food up into their mouth and chewing food, which can lead to uneven wearing of the cheek teeth. Obviously, this could also lead to the animal becoming emaciated and dying. The chances of survival are better once they pass the suckling stage, as animals are incredible resourceful; and their ability to adapt in order to survive is impressive.

It is rare for a wild animal with Wry Face to survive to adulthood. The giraffe pictured here, was spotted and photographed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park by Adele Sneyd, in October 2020, near Shingwedzi.  According to Sneyd the animal seems healthy and well-adapted to her condition.

On the left, the Giraffe spotted in October 2020. On the Right, the skull of a Horse with congenital Wry Face clearly shows the extent of the deviation.

You have to admire the tenacity and sheer will to survive visible in wild animals with this deformity, against all odds. Nature will find a way to look after her own.

Written by CJ Carrington ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

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Paradise is closing down – Fracking and Oil Drilling in Okavango Delta

The ghastly spectre of oil drilling and fracking in fragile Okavango Delta

For a distance of some 150km, Canadian company ReconAfrica’s oil and gas prospecting concessions border the Kavango River, a crucial source of water in a semi-arid area and the lifeline for one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wild species in the Okavango Delta into which it discharges.

The fate of one of Africa’s most valuable ecosystems may depend on results from wells being drilled deep into the bedrock beneath the Kalahari of northern Namibia and Botswana in the hunt for a petroleum reservoir.

If the search by Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica is successful, the region could be irrevocably transmogrified by networks of access roads, truck traffic and heavy machinery, pipelines, drill rigs and hundreds of oil and gas production wells.

A group of yellow-billed storks and other birds feed on small fishes in the flooded grassland in the Kwedi concession of the Okavango Delta, about 30km north of Mombo, Botswana. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

For ReconAfrica it would mean “the largest oil play of the decade” and immense financial profits. For social and environmental justice activists it spells unmitigated disaster.

The role played by the Namibian government (a 10% shareholder in ReconAfrica’s Namibian exploration concession) is of grave concern. While the petroleum company is vocally proclaiming that they are on the brink of a major discovery, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) is downplaying potential risks and suggesting that the focus is merely on “exploration”.

Does this mixed messaging suggest misinformation on the part of ReconAfrica to lure potential investors? Is the government trying to obfuscate what’s really happening in the region? Is this then a case for the US Securities Exchange Commission to investigate?

ReconAfrica holds exploration licences for an area of more than 25,000km² in north-eastern Namibia and a further 9,900km² across the border in Botswana. Beneath this land lies the Kavango Basin, a geological mega-structure which the company’s experts conservatively estimate to contain 120 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

To put the claimed size of this deposit into context, the largest oil field in history, Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar Field, is believed to have held a total of 88 to 104 billion barrels of oil, while the country estimated to have the biggest proven reserves is Venezuela at about 303 billion barrels.

A group of giraffes in the Kwedi concession of the Okavango Delta. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

In a press release, the MME suggests that the “necessary environmental impact permits” are in place, but opponents question the efficacy and thoroughness of the process and argue that ReconAfrica’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) falls short of legal requirements.

One major concern is that the exploitation of oil or gas deposits may require the use of hydraulic fracking technology, which involves injecting pressurised, water-based, chemical-laced fluid into wells to help release hydrocarbons tightly held in so-called unconventional deposits.

The myriad dangerous effects of fracking, from its need for vast amounts of water to the potential for artificial earthquakes, the contamination of ground and surface water and the poisoning of humans as well as the natural food chain, are well documented.

In its extremely optimistic communications with the media, ReconAfrica implies that fracking may well be on the cards. Daniel Jarvie, a petroleum geochemist on the company’s technical team, states that its licences in Namibia and Botswana “offer large-scale plays that are both conventional and unconventional”. Such unconventional “plays” would require fracking.

In a 2019 presentation to investors, ReconAfrica compares the Kavango basin to the huge Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas field in Texas and refers to plans for “modern frac simulations”. In the case of the Eagle Ford Shale, fracking at thousands of wells has been linked to air pollution and an increase in seismic activity “33 times the background rate”.

Dr Annette Hübschle of the Environmental Futures Project of UCT’s Global Risk Governance Programme warns that “we should be very concerned about the long-term impacts of fracking on livelihoods, health, ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and especially climate change.”

The MME insists, however, that neither an onshore production licence nor a licence to develop unconventional resources has been applied for or granted. They declare that “no hydraulic fracking activities are planned in Namibia” and that “Recon will not be conducting any fracking activities in the Okavango Delta.”

While the MME seems to imply that what is going on is merely exploration for possible petroleum reserves, ReconAfrica appears ready to move into oil production as soon as possible, noting that once a commercial-scale discovery is declared, their agreement with the Namibian government entitles them “to obtain a 25-year production licence”.

Ultimately, the debate over fracking may be moot as there is little doubt about the overwhelmingly destructive effects of major petroleum production – with or without fracking – in a dry, ecologically-sensitive region.

And that’s without the occurrence of any disasters – an unrealistic expectation from an industry responsible for some of the biggest environmental catastrophes in history, from the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon to Canada’s tar sands and the devastation of the Niger Delta.

According to Hübschle, “the EIA fails to address the issue of the high volumes of water required for exploration and how the highly toxic and radioactive drill mud will be cleaned and disposed of.”

A threat to people and cultural heritage:

A small herd of zebras in the Kwedi concession in the Okavango Delta. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

What is indisputable are the risks to which large, industrialised oil production would expose the region.

For a distance of some 150km, ReconAfrica’s concessions border the Kavango River (often referred to as the Okavango River, and called Rio Cubango in Angola), a crucial source of water in a semi-arid area and the lifeline for one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wild species in the Okavango Delta into which it discharges.

The region as a whole is home to around 200,000 people. The Okavango Delta, which is downstream from the suspected oil field, provides a livelihood for indigenous populations of at least five ethnic groups who rely on the landscape for water, fishing, hunting, wild plant foods, farming and tourism.

Of particular concern are local San communities whose already threatened lifestyle would be deeply impacted by the arrival of the oil industry. What’s more, the area where petroleum production would occur includes Botswana’s Tsodilo Hills — a Unesco World Heritage Site — which is celebrated as the “Louvre of the Desert” and protects over 4,500 San rock paintings, some of which are 1 200 years old.

Hübschle notes that “very few affected parties were consulted by government and the company. While the company is engaging in a winning hearts and minds campaign, there are many affected people who are deeply concerned about their land rights, ability to farm and derive income from community conservancies.”

A threat to Wildlife and Ecology:

A female leopard rests on a termite hill in the Kwedi concession in the Okavango Delta, (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

A future Kavango Basin oil field not only poses an existential risk to the Okavango Delta, a Unesco World Heritage Site in its own right — Botswana’s most-visited tourist destination and home to a very large and diverse population of animals, including more than 70 species of fish and over 400 species of birds — but it also directly overlaps the world’s largest terrestrial cross-border wildlife sanctuary, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza), which straddles the borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Zambia.

A source of millions of dollars of income from sustainable ecotourism, the area protects at least four species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list of “critically endangered” animals, including the black rhino and the white-backed vulture, seven “endangered” species, including the grey-crowned crane and the African wild dog, as well as 20 species listed as “vulnerable”, such as the martial eagle and Temminck’s pangolin.

The region is also known for its extensive network of migration routes for the planet’s largest remaining elephant population. Studies have revealed that these animals have huge home ranges of nearly 25,000km² and roam across vast distances between Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia.

The disruption of migration corridors by a massive new oil industry infrastructure would not just endanger the survival of the elephant population but is likely to increase detrimental interactions with local human communities.

“If full-scale drilling goes ahead”, says Hübschle, “the outlook for Kaza would be grim. Tourists won’t come on safari to look at oil rigs.”

From a global perspective, extracting vast amounts of fossil fuels from the region will exacerbate the ongoing human-induced climate crisis which is itself threatening the survival of the Okavango Delta as a result of decreasing annual rainfall in the catchment area.

In a deeper, geological irony, the rocks suspected of containing the oil and gas reserves of the Kavango Basin were deposited in the Permian Period which came to a cataclysmic end in the most extreme extinction event of the Earth’s history that wiped out 90% to 95% of all marine species and 70% of all land organisms.

Digging up and burning oil from these strata will push us even closer to a new global mass extinction.

In its myopic vision, all ReconAfrica sees in the northern Kalahari is money buried underground.

The Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Gernot Hensel)

At a time when the world’s few remaining wild places need all of the protection we can muster when biodiversity is declining rapidly and when global heating is wrecking the world, it’s the kind of vision that undermines the very foundations of our existence.

If we believe in restorative social and environmental justice, we ought to insist that the international fossil fuel industry funds Namibia and Botswana to keep the oil in the ground, to develop renewable energy systems instead and to safeguard their irreplaceable ecosystems.

Written by Andreas Wilson Spath, Daily Maverick, 15 December 2020

Original article here.

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WHWF Limited Edition 2021 Calendar

Now Available!

Be one of the lucky few to proudly display this beautiful Wildlife Calendar in your Home or Office. Only available in South Africa, printing has been limited to 100 Calendars.

The WHWF 2021 Big 5 Calendar is A3 size, 7 beautiful full-colour pages, Wire-bound with hanging hook. All photographs in the Calendar were taken by Paul Oxton (Founder/Director Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation).

These unique calendars are reasonably priced at R225.00ea (excl. Postage/Courier)

An ideal gift for Wildlife and Nature lover, which also helps to support Wildlife Conservation in Southern Africa. All proceeds from the sale of this Calendar will directly benefit the Wildlife most at Risk.

Be quick! Don't lose out - Order Yours Today!


Limited Edition 2021 Calendar Featuring Africa’s Magnificent Big 5

To Order:

Email (wildheartwf.info@gmail.com) or WhatsApp us on 083 588 3550 (see WhatsApp button bottom right of the screen)

  • Step 1: Tell us How many WHWF 2021 Big 5 Calendars you would like to Order for Family and Friends!
  • Step 2: Tell us who you are and how to reach you (Name, email address and Postal Address) so we can Invoice you! (We will discuss Delivery / Pick-up Options with you!)
  • Step 3: Pay upon Receipt of the Invoice.
  • Step 4. Receive your Calendar from the chosen pick-up/delivery point, and proudly display it on your wall!

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Rare Win for Rhinos – Justice for Poached Animals

South Africa: Notorious Ndlovu Rhino Poaching Gang loses Appeal

Three convicted poachers of the notorious Ndlovu gang failed in their bid to appeal their 25 year sentences.  The High Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) dismissed their appeal on all counts on Tuesday, 24 November 2020.

Conservationists and Wildlife lovers are celebrating this win for the Rhinos the world over.

In April 2016, Jabulani Ndlovu, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, and Forget Ndlovu were found in possession of more than 10kg of freshly cut rhino horn, a dart gun used to dispense the M99 immobilization drug, and a handsaw, still bloody from the latest poaching. Several mobile phones, SIM cards and rental cars were used in the poaching operations.

‘What made these poachers so dangerous is the fact that they used the Veterinary Drug, M99, to dart the rhinos, before cutting their horns off. The drug is not available to the public, and is a strictly controlled veterinary product’, says Paul Oxton , the Founder/Director of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation, a South African Non-Profit Conservation Organization.

©Paul Oxton (WHWF)

Years after their arrest in 2016 at the Makana Resort, the Ndlovu gang was found guilty in April 2019 following lengthy court proceedings, on 55 charges relating to Poaching and Wildlife Crime. The court sentenced them to 25 years each. They immediately appealed their sentences. They are directly responsible for the killing of at least 13 Rhinos, using the veterinary immobilizing agent M99, to dart the animals and then hack off their horns.  More than 100 Rhinos had been poached using this method over several years, and it is highly likely that they are responsible for all of those incidents. Since the gang had been imprisoned, not a single poaching incident has been linked to M99 use.

‘This kind of sedation is not a full anaesthesia, and the animals were able to feel as their faces were chopped into. Rhinos sedated via M99 are unable to move, but are still fully aware. It incredibly traumatic and is probably one of the cruellest methods of poaching’, Carina Crayton (aka CJ Carrington) from Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation explained.

In carefully orchestrated operations, the gang would pose as wildlife-loving guests at the different Resorts, gather information about the locations of the animals, and then poach the rhinos in the targeted area. They were operating as a highly skilled, resourceful criminal unit.

Although it took justice four and a half years to finally catch up with these criminals, Rhino lovers are thrilled with the overturning of the gang’s sentencing appeal  - stating that it is very welcome news in the fight against rhino poaching.

In the case of the Ndlovu Gang, at least two of the rhinos they killed, were pregnant at the time. This counts as a double loss, but the foetuses are not recorded as additional poached animals in South Africa’s official poaching statistics.

It is not just the dead adult rhinos that form part of the tragedy of the poaching scourge in South Africa. The result of poaching for greed is that many rhino babies end up being orphaned. It is estimated that only one out of ten Rhino Orphans are rescued in time to try and save their lives, after their mothers had been poached.  These babies have usually endured severe trauma for many days, including blows from machetes, bullet wounds, and attacks by predators, and they often end up eating sand which in turn can be fatal. Rehabilitating these orphans is costly and takes many years. Often they just do not survive.  It is part of the on-going tragedy that is Rhino Poaching for their Horns - made of Keratin, like your fingernails.

“Nobody needs a Rhino Horn, but a Rhino” ~Paul Oxton (WHWF)

Justice will not bring back the dead rhinos, but it may act as a deterrent for greedy would-be criminals, and assist in a small way in safe-guarding these national treasures. For now, we have to protect and care for the survivors.

Read more about & support efforts to help raise these Rhino Orphans, by clicking here

Written by CJ Carrington, 25 November 2020 - Copyright: Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation


Southern Africa’s Ivory

The values of Zimbabwe’s and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstated, and their proposed sale would lead to another poaching epidemic. Last year the world reacted in shock when Namibia announced plans to auction off 170 live elephants to the highest bidder. Despite criticism, the plans have continued to move forward — and that […]

Donation Tax Benefits for South African Tax Payers

Looking for a Good Cause to Support and pay less Income Tax in the Process? Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is a Registered NPO and PBO. All Donations by South African Corporates and Private Taxpayers are eligible for a Section 18(a) Tax Certificate, which will assist in reducing the income tax payable to SARS. Department of […]

Skukuza’s Specialist Anti-Poaching Court to stay Open

After a drawn-out legal battle spearheaded by Naomi Engelbrecht, President of Mpumalanga Regional Court, the High Court has ruled against appeals to enforce the closure of the Court based in Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park. The Skukuza Court handled the bulk of Rhino Poaching cases until an abrupt announcement in 2017 resulted in Engelbrecht […]

Update: Suspect Arrested! Rhino Poaching – 17 Rhino Horns Confiscated

Update: 25 January 2021 – Suspect Arrested! Kempton Park, South Africa: The Hawks arrested a 36-year-old man in Gauteng at the weekend for being a suspected rhino horn dealer. Kelvin Chigwede was arrested on Saturday after being found in possession of R500,000, suspected to be proceeds of illegal rhino horn dealings. Investigations led authorities to […]

WHWF 6th Annual Xmas Support – The Rhino Orphanage

Xmas Happiness for the Rhino Babies and their Carers: As always, we do our best to make Christmas extra special for the #WildBabies and caring Staff at The Rhino Orphanage. This year was our 6th Annual Xmas Supply Drop. With the loving care and help of our local community and our valued donors, we were […]

Captive Lion Breeding Damages SA’s Tourism Reputation

Despite overwhelming worldwide opposition, including a parliamentary resolution to close down the captive lion breeding industry, SA’s government is ignoring red flags that the industry is damaging the country’s reputation and deliberating a 2020 annual trade quota for the export of lion bones. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) said in April that the decision […]

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