Canadian gold miner B2Gold has launched a great initiative to protect the critically endangered black rhino, and the community-based rhino rangers and trackers who protect the rhinos in Namibia. Image credit: savetherhino.com

Canadian gold miner B2Gold has launched a great initiative in support of conservation in Namibia. The company, that operates the Otjikoto mine in north central Namibia, introduced the Namibian Rhino Gold Bar campaign in North America.

The campaign was launched to help with the conservation and protection of the critically endangered black rhinos, and the community-based rhino rangers and trackers who protect the rhinos, in Namibia.

Due to poaching, driven by the illegal rhino horn trade, more than 1000 wild rhinos are killed for their horns in Africa each year. The northwest of Namibia is home to the last and largest population of free-roaming black rhinos in the world, but with fewer than 5630 black rhinos left in the wild, the need for rhino conservation and protection has never been so critical. At the current rate, it is predicted that black rhinos will be extinct within a decade.

One of the key challenges for successful conservation and protection of the black rhinos is that they live in a rural area that covers about 25 000km2 with no national park status, few roads and little control as to who can access the area. The monitoring and safety of this population of black rhinos is attributed to the commitment of organisations such as Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and Rhino Rangers, and local communities that continue to dedicate their lives to protecting the rhinos.

In addition to the vast size and remoteness of the rhino range area, rhino rangers and trackers are faced with several other challenges in the field, including tackling dangerous terrain, dealing with a harsh climate, and being continually threatened by poachers.

More recently, the biggest challenge to the success of black rhino conservation and protection is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organisations such as SRT and IRDNC, which provide critical field-based support to rhino rangers and trackers, have had their budgets slashed as international donors have had to pass along cuts to their own budgets due to the pandemic. The pandemic has also generated significant job losses in urban areas and created an influx of people migrating back to their extended families in rural areas, putting increased pressure on natural resources and ultimately resulting in an increase in poaching.

Furthermore, several areas within the rhino range have been left exposed by the lack of tourists because of the pandemic, which now require extra patrolling efforts by SRT, IRDNC and Rhino Rangers. In turn, this leads to a need for increased resources at a time when conservation funding is being cut. Rhino tracking has been central to tourism development in the region and has provided local jobs and a source of income for local communities. However, the knock-on effect of the pandemic in terms of job security and the protection of the black rhinos is potentially devastating for a region that has worked so hard to develop a rhino-based economy.

Through its donation of 1000 ounces of gold (valued at approximately USD1.9-million (as at July 28, 2020)) from the Otjikoto mine, B2Gold has produced 1000 limited edition Namibian Rhino Gold Bars in various sizes. To celebrate the launch of the campaign in North America, 400 one-ounce gold bars went on sale on Kitco Metals’ retail website recently.

Kitco, one of the world’s premier retailers of precious metals, has agreed to process these transactions (on behalf of B2Gold) at cost to further benefit black rhino conservation and protection efforts in Namibia and local communities whose livelihoods depend on the survival of the species. Each one-ounce bar is available for purchase at the spot price of gold plus a 15% conservation premium.

The 15% premium is a way to extend the positive impact of each gold bar sold in support of rangers, trackers, and black rhino conservation and protection. It will be used to fund the future production of more gold bars, or gold medallions, the second limited edition of which will be distinctly different from the first mintage, ensuring that this initiative remains self-sustaining.

According to B2Gold’s president and CEO, Clive Johnson this is an example of using one precious resource, gold mined in Namibia, to protect another – the world’s critically endangered black rhino population – now and for generations to come.

The gold bars feature symbols of hope for the future of the black rhinos. With a striking image of a rhino mother and calf on the back, and an iconic image of Namibia, the Namib Desert, on the front, the gold bars are presented in a box made of sustainably harvested material. Purchasers of the gold bars will receive ongoing information and updates from the Rhino Gold Bar Advisory Committee as to how their investment is helping to redefine conservation financing and how funds are being used to save the black rhinos from extinction.

Proceeds from the sale of the first 600 gold bars to Namibian and African purchasers have been managed and distributed by the Committee, which includes representatives from B2Gold, SRT, IRDNC, the Namibia Chamber of Environment, and the Namibia Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. Funds have been allocated to help counteract the impact of the pandemic by providing salaries to keep rhino rangers and trackers in the field for the next 12 months; maintaining adequate patrol levels to diminish the threat of poaching and sustain population growth; raising awareness about the importance of black rhino conservation to reinforce community support; and upgrading communication systems to ensure the rapid response of rhino rangers and trackers during a crisis situation. Proceeds from the sale of the 400 gold bars in North America will continue to be managed and distributed by the Committee.

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