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Rhino for Erongo Mountains Dr Hu Berry is one of Namibia's leading naturalists. He has been the country's chief ornithologist as well as chief biologist at the Namib Naukluft National Park and at Etosha. Now retired, he still trains guides. Here he tells us about his latest project. Moro >> News · views · people · places · conservation · community · wildlife · culture The Erongo Region in Namibia is historically home to one of the most endangered large mammal species in Africa – the black, or more correctly, hook- lipped rhino. ' Erongo', in the indigenous Herero language, refers to ' big mountain', an apt description of the extinct volcanic massif spanning forty kilometres. Its geological history reveals that, when the super continent of Gondwana began breaking up into Africa, South America, Madagascar, Australia and India some 130 million years ago, Africa rose up from the ocean, causing faults in the Earth's crust. Concurrent earthquakes opened vents for copious lava flows, creating the infant Erongo. After a further 20 million years it collapsed, forming a massive caldera that gradually eroded to the present ' volcanic skeleton', which is the largest of its kind in the world. Erongo's ramparts still rise one thousand metres above the surrounding Namib Desert plains, holding in its 200,000 hectares a rich diversity of wildlife. Realising this, the landowners formally established the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy in the year 2000. Nevertheless, one of the key species, a mega- herbivore, had long since been eliminated by hunters. Hook- lipped rhino no longer browsed on the steep slopes or in the numerous valleys. Undaunted, the landowners took up the challenge innovatively. Even the mineral- rich fountain water that bubbled up from perennial springs was bottled and sold with the slogan ' Rhino for Erongo'. A royalty from every bottle sold was put in a trust fund to provide for the expensive reintroduction of rhino. The vision became reality this year when a number of rhino were relocated and released into the conservancy. Of course, you don't simply release something like a wild rhino on your ' farm' without having an adequate management plan in place. Included in the conservancy's strategy was how to harmonise wild rhinos with tourists who walk the wilderness trails on a daily basis. Consequently, I ran a course for guides on what to do – and what not to do – if they encountered a rhino whilst on a trail with guests. Rhino bulls can attain a hefty 1200kg, but are nimble- footed and can spin around in their own length. Add to this an inherently aggressive nature and an acute sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight, and you may be confronted by an unpredictable creature, which is potentially dangerous to people. Because each encounter with a rhino is different and depends upon the circumstances and the individual animal, there are no set procedures that can be followed. The important principle to remember is that a rhino's reaction to your presence will depend upon whether it feels threatened. The practical part of the course was vital. Because a rhino cannot be ordered to appear ' on tap', this entailed repeated role- playing. In turn, the guides each ' became' a rhino, a guide, and a guest. The outcome of these practical field classes was most satisfactory, albeit sometimes amusing, when the wily ' rhino' ambushed the hikers unexpectedly from a thicket, causing confusion and a hasty retreat. After repeated ' encounters' the knowledge necessary to deal with a real rhino was acquired. ' Rhino for Erongo', once simply a symbolic silhouette on a bottle of natural mineral water, has now become an exciting reality for both landowners and tourists alike. Travel Namibia 17 Playing the rhino. Guides learn through role play The black rhino can weigh up to 1200kg ANN AND STEVE TOON

18 Travel Namibia Moro >> News · views · people · places · conservation · community · wildlife · culture Wildlife Wild dogs are a rare sight Wild dogs spotted at Waterberg Research in the Sperrgebiet of south- west Namibia has found that hyenas have a hunting sphere of up to 3900 square kilometers. Dr Ingrid Wiesel of The Brown Hyena Research Project has fitted thirteen brown hyenas and one spotted hyena with GPS collars. The technology is used to find out where the animals roam. Brown hyenas have a home On our way from Windhoek to Waterberg we always find a variety of antelopes and birds writes Jan Mohrdieck, a guide with Namibia Expeditions, CC Africa. On this particular day however, just 20km from our camp at Waterberg, we ran into a big surprise. At about 4.30pm, as we drove along the gravel road and dry river bed, we saw something standing in our way. At first I thought it was a spotted hyena, but this creature seemed much more slender than a hyena. Also, the colouration was completely different. Its fur had patches of brown- orange, black and white. Then it hit me – it was a wild dog. This endangered animal hasn't been seen in Waterberg for a long time. We approached slowly and managed to have a good look at it. As wild dogs live in packs, I was wondering where the others were. To the right of the road was a game fence and behind it I could see three more wild dogs. Obviously they had somehow become separated and were now trying to find a way to get back together. They trotted along the fence and we followed but, after a while, they seemed irritated by our presence, so we moved on. I assume the pack is now back together because, after a couple of kilometres, the fence ends. Historical records indicate that wild dogs were once present in all the regions and habitats of Namibia. In the last 80 years however, their range has been vastly reduced. A sighting like this is probably the result of conservation initiatives such as the Wild Dog Project. THE BROWN HYENA RESEARCH PROJECT A coast- dwelling brown hyena n Have you recently had a unusual or exciting encounter with Namibian wildlife? Travel Namibia would love to hear about it. E- mail the editor mary@ travelafricamag. com C ollared hyenas Wildlife sightings