In South Africa, the government and private conservation entities have grappled with the unprecedented rate of animal poaching, which has led to the classification of some of them as endangered species.
Of the approximately 29,000 rhinos in the world, 80% are found in South Africa, making it a key country in rhino conservation efforts.
But the country has faced alarming cases of poaching, with poachers becoming increasingly deadly and sophisticated using powerful weapons and, at times, improvised explosive devices. The situation was so dire between 2013 and 2017 that more than 1,000 rhinos were poached each year. Their horns are sold in Asian countries where demand is steadily increasing due to their purported medicinal value.
Repelling poachers costs government and private entities millions of dollars each year
To protect endangered animals, both government and private actors have had to spend millions of dollars on surveillance and modern equipment which has been credited with declining numbers of poached animals. In 2020, 394 rhinos were poached, which is a 33% drop from the 594 killed in 2019.
According to the Private Rhino Owners Association, private reserves spent around 2 billion rand ($ 140 million) between 2009 and 2017 on various animal welfare projects.
These included miles of electric fencing, helicopters and planes for surveillance, the deployment of highly trained rangers with grenade launchers and automatic rifles, cameras, eavesdropping devices to locate poachers, and radar. military grade.
Kruger National Park, which is located in northeastern South Africa and is one of Africa’s largest game reserves and is home to rhinos, elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards, spends more $ 13.5 million annually for various anti-poaching programs. It has invested in dog tracker packs, helicopters and South African Defense Force support, and employs Africa’s most highly skilled anti-poaching force.
To ensure specific animal protection, Kruger National Park has divided the land into 22 sections. A ranger and a team of field guards are responsible for each section. Yet even with this elaborate safety detail, the park had lost 327 rhinos in 2019 and 421 in 2018.
South Africa’s 330 private rhino owners, responsible for caring for more than 7,000 rhinos, have expressed concerns about the high cost of protecting endangered animals.
Tech to the rescue
As government and private actors explore innovative and sustainable ways to boost wildlife conservation, a group of techies and environmentalists are embracing blockchain and cryptocurrency in a model that seeks to reward investors while engaging profits in conservation projects across South Africa.
Wild Card, the company behind the initiative, has over the years explored unique ways to disrupt modern conservation space and contributes 92 million rand ($ 6.4 million) annually to the conservation.
Thanks to Ethereum, a digital ledger of public transactions, those who wish to invest in conservation have the chance to become the guardians of one of the endangered animals, to learn more about the profile of the endangered animals and to choose the species of which they would like to be the guardians.
A wildcard represents a digital version of an animal with the guardian making a monthly donation in order to continue to be the guardian of the digital animal. These donations are then sent as Ether Coins to the digital portfolios of various conservation projects. By adopting the Harberger tax model, the platform allows the guardian to decide how much another user must pay in order for them to become the new custodian of the endangered species. However, the tutor must also pay the harberger tax, which is a percentage of the sale price he has set.
The platform developed three digital hyena wildcards in partnership with conservationists from the Wild Tomorrow Fund to support the MunYaWana Spotted Hyena project, which adopted GPS collar technology to tame the declining hyena population in the north. from KwaZulu Natal.
âAt Wild Tomorrow Fund, we believe that innovative technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies have the potential to connect new audiences to custody, changing the way we interact and unite as a global community to protecting the precious biodiversity of our planet, âWendy Hapgood, Wild The co-founder and COO of Tomorrow Fund, said in a statement.
Crypto-backed custody has been hailed as transformative for being transparent and auditable by allowing any investor to track where their investment is headed while eliminating the number of players involved in transactions, thus facilitating a swift donation process. Prompt payment by donors from any part of the world has reduced high cross-border transaction fees.
Global community expands technology-driven curation solutions
WildCard is one of many disruptive conservation models being put in place as governments, private sector actors and development partners adopt innovative strategies that reward investors, while positioning conservation as a worthy investment as individuals. and businesses can embrace and win by shifting attention away from the traditional model that has been the preserve of governments and philanthropists.
The World Bank recently announced the sale of a 5-year 670 million rand ($ 45 million) bond intended to raise funds to boost South Africa’s endangered black rhino population.
The Global Wildlife Conservation Bond, the first of its kind, which will be sold later this year, will give conservation investors a chance to leverage their investment and reinvest their income in other projects in their area. choice.
Investor returns will depend on animal population growth in two South African reserves.
Image: Colin the Scotsman.