The Rhino Momma Project
NAMIBIA RHINO CONSERVATION
Small steps lead to great change
The massive rise of rhino poaching has made waves throughout the world, as it becomes more evident by the day that if drastic action isn’t taken, our future generations may very well come to know the rhinoceros as an extinct creature.
Taking action requires innovative ideas and ingenuity, and the Rhino Momma Project did exactly that, they took decisive action in an innovative manner, and as a result, they have made a significant difference in the growing numbers of rhinos in Namibia.
Their story reads of passion and determination and is truly inspiring - A Massive Undertaking with Humble Beginnings:
At a local high school in northern Namibia, in a small town called Outjo, a 15-year-old presented an idea to bring about a large-scale White Rhino conservation project to his class. He proposed a breeding project ambitious enough to repopulate the country with these majestic creatures that have been driven near extinction by habitat loss and poaching. Projects of this size require dedication and resources. Through a series of events and over several years, this vision has led to the creation of the nonprofit organisation (NPO), ‘The Rhino Momma Project.’
The young man’s father, Jaco Muller, decided in 2010 to convert his family-run antelope breeding program into a program that focused on breeding high-quality white rhino’s in large enough quantities to potentially fulfil his son’s dream to preserve and expand the white rhino population in Namibia. A bull was acquired from a local reserve, and soon after, the family companies acquired a mature cow and her calf at auction, Muller Investment Corp cc and Muller Stud Namibia cc. became the proud, ambitious and somewhat naïve owners of their first White Rhinos. The advice was sought from the largest breeder of Rhinos in South Africa to prevent losses, and it was then that the enormity of the task at hand began to reveal itself! This was going to be expensive!
The funds generated from developing two nature estates were used to purchase two properties adjacent to the original stand and to acquire the animals needed to invest in the breeding programme's success appropriately. White rhinos were sourced from throughout Namibia and South Africa at great expense to ensure the best genetic diversity possible. Genetic diversity is an essential tool in the conservation arsenal because it promotes the health and longevity of the population; it is a tool that will require constant investment in the future.
In January 2013, 3 years after the initial purchase, the first calf was born on the farm! Since that day, up until June 2023, the delight experienced by the Muller family and company at the arrival of the first calf has been replicated 136 more times; each new calf contributing immeasurable to the conservation efforts!
Unfortunately, the programme has not been without trials and tribulations, as the dramatic increase in poaching in the area commenced in 2015. The program established anti-poaching patrols on foot with e-bikes, bicycles and 4x4 vehicles and aerial surveillance, and all the equipment and skills needed to prioritise deterrence and early warning were employed from the get-go. These efforts were initially funded by the Muller’s various enterprises at the reserve. Still, they soon realised that funding the various patrolling efforts, general maintenance costs, and continuing investment into the stud would not be sustainable. At the same time, Namibia was experiencing prolonged periods of drought, which prevented the farm from producing enough forage to feed the ever-expanding rhino population.
As costs escalated, a decision was made in 2018 to register a nonprofit organisation to help support the breeding program in its conservation efforts. The Rhino Momma Project was set up to raise funds and awareness that would allow the continuation of the essential breeding program owned by the Muller family’s enterprises.
But as things go, the fundraising took valuable resources away from the breeding programme in the early days. Yet another significant decision was made, and the doors to the Kifaru Luxury Lodge were opened in 2019. Kifaru means “rhino” in the African language, Swahili, and the hope for this lodge was that it would generate sustainable funds for the NPO from the tourism sector. The reality was watching those newly opened doors close with the rise of the Covid 19 pandemic, a mere four months after they opened.
It was only in 2020 that The Rhino Momma project generated enough to implement further anti-poaching strategies such as dehorning in addition to maintaining the patrols and surveillance. Despite the difficulties faced by the lodge, the NPO was also able to provide enough to give the feedstocks a respite from the shortages brought about by the drought. This support was crucial to the breeding programme, so much so that it has encouraged the board at The Rhino Momma project to expand their vision to include the support of all black and white rhino custodians across Namibia in the future.
In 2022, international travel resumed, and so did bookings for the lodge. Slowly but surely, the much-anticipated revenue from the lodge is starting to come in, and the dream of raising awareness through tourism and generating a sustainable and reliable income for The Rhino Momma Project in support of the breeding program is being questioned.
The Muller family, through the Muller Stud Namibia, remain true to the vision conveyed by their son at that local school in the small town of Outjo, Namibia: “We cannot only preserve but expand the country’s white rhino population to conserve the species.” This vision should be expanded to include the entire continent of Africa. However, this will only be possible through dedicated individuals who, with the help and support from NPOs such as The Rhino Momma Project, continue to rescue the species from extinction’s precipitous edge.
Their goal is to continue breeding these magnificent animals to try and repopulate Namibia, Africa and hopefully the rest of the world. They currently have breeding animals in 3 separate, large breeding camps (3 706 acres each). They hope to build up their breeding capacity to 30+ calves per year.
Volunteer with us!
If you are interested in being hands-on in rhino conservation, why not volunteer with us?! This is a truly special opportunity to make memories you will never forget while doing very important work - saving the rhino! The average rate to volunteer with us is U$ 592.00. However, the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets! Have a look:
2 weeks: U$ 1231.00
3 weeks: U$ 1841.00
4 weeks: U$ 2429.00
5 weeks: U$ 3091.00
6 weeks: U$ 3601.00
7 weeks: U$ 4191.00
8 weeks: U$ 4791.00
Volunteering with us for more than three month is available at a special rate! Feel free to contact us for more information.