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Attitudes and perceptions of local communities towards the reintroduction of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) into their historical range in northwest Kunene Region, Namibia: a Masters Dissertation from 2004 


Simson !Uri≠khob

With a Foreword by Sian Sullivan and Jeff Muntifering, “Historicising black rhino in west Namibia”

September 2020



Future Pasts is pleased to publish this 2004 MSc dissertation by Simson !Uri≠khob, CEO since 2014 of the Namibian NGO Save the Rhino Trust (SRT). The dissertation examines the attitudes and perceptions of rural communities living in three conservancies in the Kunene Region of Namibia towards wildlife in general, and to the reintroduction of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) into these conservancies, which fall within the historical range of this species. A questionnaire survey was undertaken in May and June 2004 that captured information on demographic data, socio-economic data and knowledge of wildlife amongst households residing close to the current rhino range, as well as with those living in the middle of the surveyed conservancies as well as neighbouring self-sufficient conservancies. A high proportion of respondents were found to be very positive towards conserving wildlife as well as to the reintroduction of rhino. Positive attitudes tended to be associated with education and were also associated with households that already benefit from the conservancy, as well as amongst those who live next to conservancies with good benefit-sharing schemes. These findings suggest that benefits influence attitudes. It was found additionally that respondents whose family members work in tourism-related fields were very positive towards conserving wildlife. Education level, age, gender, occupation and which conservancy respondents were from were the most important factors influencing attitudes of respondents towards conserving wildlife. At the same time, a proportion of respondents were not in favour of conserving wildlife, reportedly since they do not receive any benefits from wildlife, incurring only losses to livestock and crops from wildlife, and especially from elephants and predators.


Potential release sites for black rhino reintroduced to conservancy areas were identified by respondents and assessed separately for their habitat suitability, access to surface water and the impact of human settlements in these areas. The Klip River area of the ≠Khoadi-||Hôas Conservancy was found to be the most favourable site for reintroducing rhino. Zonation of this area by the conservancy for only wildlife use further supports this site being considered for the reintroduction of rhino into their historical range in the following year. Finally, it was realised that examination of the relationship between local communities and conservation issues requires deeper understanding of the history of the region as well as factors shaping regional political concerns.

Key words. Black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis); Kunene Region, Namibia; ≠Khoadi-||Hôas Conservancy; Omatandeka Conservancy; ||Huab Conservancy; species reintroduction; CBNRM; biodiversity conservation


The paper is preceded by a Foreword by Sian Sullivan and Jeff Muntifering, Science Adviser to Save the Rhino Trust, that provides a brief Namibian history of the critically endangered and ‘unique’ ‘South-western black rhino’ to situate Simson !Uri≠khob’s MSc research and highlight its importance. It is extraordinary that black rhino currently thrive in north-west Namibia, given 1) the clearance of black rhino from most of its former range, as the colonial frontier – enabled by firearm technology – expanded erratically from especially the 1830s; and 2) the concentration of both economically marginalised autochthonous Namibians and high-value black rhino in the relatively inaccessible and inhospitable landscapes of west Namibia. !Uri≠khob’s research with those living in landscapes forming the existing and potential range for black rhino is an important contribution to understanding and celebrating contemporary circumstances, which is why we are enhancing its public accessibility with this publication. The Foreword thus outlines what is known about the past presence of Diceros bicornis bicornis in the western reaches of the territory that became known as Namibia. We foreground the different pressures that have caused its present restricted distribution, of which the west Kunene population forms a critical part, introducing here an online map of historical documentation of encounters with rhino (see below). We conclude by returning to the significance of Simson !Uri≠khob’s contemporary research for current monitoring, tourism and local values connected with black rhino in west Namibia.

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