Salted or Unsalted

Salted or Unsalted

A choice that isn’t available to most aquatic animals. So how is it that the fish most commonly known for its breeding success in agricultural environments is the exception?

In celebration of marine month, we take a quick dip into the pool of conservation awareness around aquatic animals.

A name that rolls off the tongue and serves as the common label to over one hundred species of cichlid fish, tilapia. Also called muddy and earthy and frowned upon by chefs who see the fish as inferior to saltwater line fish. However, if we continue to indulge in fish as a culinary delight, tilapia are the species of choice when it comes to implementing sustainable farming practices, because they are adaptable and hardy.

So how are tilapia linked to the more salty side of aquatic life? In the past two years tilapia have been discovered by researchers to be adaptable to saltwater environments. Tilapia are able to physiologically adapt to varying salinity levels making them viable contenders to step in as superheroes in the quest to reel in the effects of climate change.

Biochemists continue to research and understand how stress-tolerant fish like tilapia convert environmental signals into beneficial biological and physiological outcomes that allow them to adapt in environments of varying salinity levels – a feat that is deadly for most other species. Unlike land animals, aquatic dwelling animals constantly work to maintain a level of balance between the water within their bodies and the water in which they live. This balancing act, known as osmoregulation, is threatened by climate change. As the polar ice caps continue to melt, sea levels rise, which causes the salt content of oceans to decrease and the salinity of coastal rivers or bodies of water to increase. And so both marine life and freshwater creatures are affected. The topic of debate is now concerned with whether or not other fish species will evolve to adapt to salinity levels with the changing climate conditions, or if tilapia are perhaps our only hope for creating conservation efforts around regulating the survival of fish species under these life altering conditions.

CCFA has a vested interest in tilapia, which in the past few years have been introduced to Lake Gishanda in Rwanda, the body of water which, post genocide, was devoid of animal life. Part of the Akagera Fisheries Project that operates within Akagera National Park, the introduction of tilapia to Lake Gishanda aims to stimulate sustainable farming practices in order to generate income for local communities, through job opportunities and food security. As this fish population increases the community will be in a position to supply the local hotel industry, including the nearby Akagera Game Lodge by Mantis.

Perhaps in a few years time marine biologists will be working more closely with freshwater fish farmers. What we know for now is that all life is interconnected so no species, tiny or muddy, should ever be dismissed when considering conservation efforts. 

Rhino Air Safari

Rhino Air Safari

When five rhinos fly 6000km from Czech Republic to Rwanda in the largest ever transport of rhinos from Europe to Africa, there’s a tale to be told. We are still beaming over the recent relocation of five Eastern black rhinos from Safari Park Dvûr KráIové in the Czech Republic to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The CCFA contributed $10,000 towards the logistics of this project, which essentially began years ago, with the vision the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) had to help supplement wild populations in secure parks in Africa. The wildlife selected for these relocations are genetically-robust and have been successfully bred and cared for over the years by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Ex Situ Programme.

With fewer than 5, 000 wild black rhinos and 1000 Eastern black rhinos currently roaming game parks in Africa, as well as a future threatened by poachers gunning to meet the illegal demand for rhino horn, the CCFA believes that support for this type of relocation and rehabilitation will effectively contribute to sustainable wildlife conservation.

Three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, were chosen from the EAZA EEP. Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Safari Park Dvûr KráIové (Czech Republic); Olmoti comes from Flamingo Land (United Kingdom) and Mandela is from Ree Park Safari (Denmark). The five travel buddies (gathered for relocation in November 2018) took part in sensitisation exercises for months prior to their trip to minimise stress during their journey. Their economy seats were custom-made crates that allowed for them to be fed and watered regularly. The travellers were accompanied by experienced zookeepers from Safari Park Dvûr KráIové as well as veterinarian Dr. Pete Morkel, a world expert in rhino translocations, who oversaw their comfort and well being throughout the trip as well as their introduction to their final destination in Rwanda.

Model and conservation advocate Veronika Varekova, played a key role as a patron assisting with transport costs for the project. The rhinos have been donated to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the governmental body that in partnership with African Parks manages Akagera National Park.

The happy traveller’s accommodation plan included an initial stay in boma enclosures, followed by a stay in larger enclosures in a specially protected area and finally their release into the northern part of the national park where they now roam free.

Both the Rwandan and European counterparts involved in the relocation project believe that the rhinos will thrive in their natural habitat in Akagera, a park where tourists can now visit the African Big Five. This protected environment will also allow for the ongoing study of the five rhinos as well as the existing rhino population as they gradually integrate to contribute to a stable population of black rhinoceros in East Africa.

Jamanda Community Conservancy – Zimbabwe

Jamanda Community Conservancy – Zimbabwe


The Jamanda Community Conservancy (JCC) in Zimbabwe is a project focused around facilitating the co-existence of rural communities and wildlife, to further support the existing CAMPFIRE program (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources).

CAMPFIRE was established in response to clashes between a tribal community that was moved off its land in 1966 to make way for wildlife reserves, Ghonarezhou National Park and the Department of National Parks. This community is today known as the Mahenye community and is situated just outside Ghonarezhou. It is regarded as Zimbabwe’s finest example of a CAMPFIRE program.

The most recent expansion of the project has been by the Mahenye community who have set aside 7,000 hectares of land to establish the JCC. The JCC shares a 12km boundary with Gonarezhou Park allowing wildlife free movement. A 25km game fence funded by the EU minimises the risk of human-wildlife conflict. A headquarters, workshop, reception office and three ranger bases are under construction and should be completed by the end of the year.

The challenge for this community conservation initiative is for them to become self-sufficient in meeting their operational costs and in contributing to the improvement of livelihoods of the community at large. To this end the Jamanda Steering Committee has identified an income-generating project through the development of a low key non-consumptive tourist camp. The economic viability of this camp will determine the success or failure of the entire project.

The CCFA proudly funded the construction of a 12-bed self-catering camp within the Jamanda Conservancy, on the Save River, which overlooks the Gonarezhou National Park. The camp will offer guests a cultural visit to the villages, game activities and game drives into the GRZ Park.

The final phase of the project is to secure sufficient funding to meet the cost of game capture and translocation of wildlife from private conservancies, in order to fast-track product development by providing a competitive wildlife experience. The focus will be on plains game, as species such as elephant and predators will naturally move in from the GRZ Park.

Rhino poachers who are just the poor and desperate pawns of the mega-rich deserve help not vilification; incentives not ignominy

On April 2, five men armed with rifles illegally entered South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP) in the Crocodile Bridge area. Only four returned to their homes. The fith was trampled by an elephant and his body eaten by one of Kruger’s numerous lions. The four would-be poachers who escaped told the dead man’s wife and children that he had been killed by an elephant but they couldn’t find his body.

The family contacted KNP headquarters and the regional ranger there, Don English, launched a search. The man’s pitiful remains were found on Thursday, April 4. Most of the body had been eaten by lions, leaving only his skull and a pair of pants. The four accomplices have been arrested and charged with murder.

Unusually in a case where poachers – and the four accomplices admited they intended to poach rhinos – have died in the process of

poaching, the managing executive of KNP, Glenn Phillips, extended his condolences to the family, commenting, “very sad to see the daughters of the diseased (sic) mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very litle of his remains”.

His sympathy for the man’s children was not matched on social media. Some of the comments I’ve come across include: “He had it coming. Excellent way to dispose of wastage”; “There truly is a god”; “Nature taking apt revenge on poachers. What could be beter than that?”; “Karma”.

Understandable, you might say, as many people (myself included) abhor poaching and the killing of rhino for their horns – which are made of compacted hair with no medicinal or other value. Yet, buyers in China and Vietnam will pay $60,000 per kg for it, believing it to cure cancer, stop hangovers, or because they see it as something to show off to business associates and friends. This demand drives poaching in southern Africa, where the majority of the world’s black and white rhino survive. The population of Africa’s two species numbers between 22,500 and 24,500. Between 2007 – when poaching started to surge – and the end of 2018, records show that 8,014 rhinos were poached in South Africa.

Men like the one who died a week ago are not the kingpins or smuggling syndicate leaders whose greed leads them to commission crimes to feed the demand from East Asia. The poachers are generally poor rural dwellers who gain litle or nothing from the lucrative safari businesses that operate where they live.

Apart from low-paid menial jobs in national parks or safari lodges, they get litle benefit from wildlife and its conservation. Instead, it is their children who may be killed as they walk to school by elephants, whose livestock is killed by lions, hyenas or leopards or whose crops are eaten or trampled by elephants, buffalo, bush pigs or other animals. They suffer rather than benefit from wildlife.

Struggling to send their children to school, pay medical fees or raise their living standards, it is litle wonder that they can easily be drawn into being the poor bloody infantry of the poaching business. If they get tracked down they risk being shot or, at best, imprisoned. Those that commission them – the rich kingpins like Dawie Groenewald, Hugo Ras or Dumisano Gwala – hire clever lawyers, who keep them out on bail or have connections in the police, judiciary, or high political places and they rarely end up serving long sentences, or their cases never come to court.

Poaching is wrong. There are no two ways about it. But so was forcing people from the land on which they or their ancestors lived and legally hunted for subsistence for centuries, and so is a system that makes billions a year through high cost or high volume tourism but returns a pitance to the local communities. These communities deserve help not vilification; incentives not ignominy.

Successful conservation linked with tourism and other sustainable forms of income generation from wildlife, even dare I say it regulated hunting, can work to conserve wildlife, protect habitats and benefit local communities, as it has through Namibia’s community conservancy model, which has helped reduce poaching, increase elephant, rhino and desert-adapted lion numbers and given local communities a sense of ownership. Empower and incentivise them and you cut the poaching kingpins power over them and everyone but the criminals can benefit.

Human Elephant Coexistence – Namibia

Human Elephant Coexistence – Namibia


CCFA is pleased to have supported an initiative that is creating harmony between communities and wildlife in the Kunene region of Namibia.

Ombonde People’s Park, located in the Kunene region, is home to desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, lion and cheetah – all vulnerable or threatened in Africa.  The Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation’s (IRDNC) Elephant conservation and human-elephant mitigation programme, aims to prevent poaching in the area, while enhancing and building on community ownership of wildlife and natural resources. This is an authentic partnership between community conservancies and the government.

Drought is a constant threat that affects basic living standards and survival. It creates social strains such as unemployment, hunger and an increase in human-wildlife conflict scenarios. Many predators have moved closer to the homesteads, preying on livestock and destroying gardens because they are struggling to source water and food in their own habitats. Similarly, some farmers are encroaching on core wildlife zones in search of better grazing opportunities for their livestock.

There are currently 674 conservancy members working towards the common goal to live peacefully alongside wildlife by employing sustainable livelihood practices.

Various meetings held between January 2018 and August 2019, facilitated by the IRDNC team members, focused on plans to introduce a community garden and erect a solar-powered electric fence to protect it from elephants and other wildlife.

Funding for the project was approved after we received a project outline and application at the 2018 Conservation Lab. It is a project that is aligned with our overarching ethos: Working with local communities to preserve conservation.

CCFA previously donated U$25 000 toward the cost of erecting an electric fence around the community’s food garden which is about 140 625 m² (14 hectares). In addition to the fence, we also secured a commitment from the local council to provide water to the conservancy, to ensure the farming project is sustainable and improves the lives of the community.

The electric fence is comprised of 3 live strands and 2 earth wires. The energiser is a powerful unit, with 8 Joules stored energy – strong enough to deter elephants. It includes a solar PV panel and cover and operates independently of any grid.

The easy to assemble and maintain system, was installed by the community and overseen by the IRDNC Human Wildlife Support team. The community was tasked to nominate a ‘tech savvy’ community member to be trained on how to install the fence and operate the ‘fence tester’ apparatus to allow for fuss-free maintenance.  There will be community ownership regarding the upkeep of the property.


Although this practical intervention – the installation of an electric fence – has addressed one of the major problems faced by the community, ongoing strategic interaction between the IRDNC and surrounding communities will continue in the form of:

  • Continuing to identify community concerns around the encroaching elephant population, in order to formulate effective actions towards a more peaceful co-existence.
  • Creating and maintaining awareness about the negative impact of elephant poaching as well as the economic and environmental benefits of cohabiting peacefully with the elephants
  • Monitoring of elephant populations and their movements
  • Gathering data around elephant conflict and determining the cost of any damage to properties and farming livestock to find creative solutions to mitigate these situations
  • Incentivising communities by adding value through tourism, offering training that will enable them to find jobs in the wildlife tourism industry.


Latest Update

Great strides have been made in the Kunene Region of Namibia to help create harmonious living conditions between the 674 Ongongo conservancy members – living within the Ombonde People’s Park – and neighbouring wildlife.

The problem

Drought remains the main environmental problem experienced by the Ongongo conservancy. It impacts basic survival and living standards, creates social strains such as unemployment and hunger and increases human-wildlife conflict scenarios. Many predators have moved closer to the homesteads because they are struggling to source water and food in their own habitats and, similarly, some farmers are encroaching on core wildlife zones in search of better grazing opportunities for their livestock.



The easy to assemble and maintain fence was installed by the 20-strong team, overseen by the IRDNC Human Wildlife Support team.

Designed to deter the elephants, the fence comprises 3 live strands and 2 earth wires.  The energizer is a powerful unit with 8 joules stored energy and comes with a solar PV panel and cover and operates independently of any grid.

The solution

This particular project focused on assisting the community, especially the women, by erecting an electric fence around the community garden to deter elephants – and other animals – from ruining their crops.



Transferring of skills

The community were educated about the hazards of the ‘live’ fence and how to avoid contact with electricity. Two community members have been trained to monitor and guard the fence while another two are now competent to offer technical support and fence maintenance.

Next steps

Although this practical intervention has addressed one of the major problems faced by the community, ongoing strategic interaction between the IRDNC and surrounding communities will continue in the form of:

  • Identifying community concerns around the encroaching elephant population to help formulate effective actions that will allow a peaceful co-existence
  • Creating and maintaining awareness about the negative impact of elephant poaching as well as the economic and environmental benefits of cohabiting peacefully with the elephants
  • Monitoring the elephant populations and their movements
  • Gathering data around elephant conflict to determine the cost of any damage to properties and farming livestock to find creative solutions to mitigate these situations
  • Incentivising communities by adding value through tourism – offering training to enable them to find employment within the wildlife tourism industry.

Despite the impact on supply chains due to Covid-19 restrictions and subsequent lockdowns, the necessary materials were procured and 20 residents (15 men and 5 women) were nominated to help with the construction, this included:

  • Sourcing fencing poles
  • Collecting and dressing the poles
  • Digging holes and cement corner posts (5), gate posts (1) and stays (12)
  • Cleaning of the fence line
  • Stringing and fastening wires
  • Closing the fence for small stock

Nearly all the countries in the world have promised to improve the planet and the lives of its citizens by 2030.

They’ve committed themselves to 17 life-changing goals, outlined by the UN in 2015. These Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), include ending extreme poverty, giving people better healthcare, and achieving equality for women.  The aim is for all countries to work together to ensure no one is left behind.

This project is aligned with the following goals: