Canada-based B2Gold has launched a Namibian Rhino Gold Bar campaign in North America to help support the conservation and protection of the critically endangered black rhino, and the community-based rhino rangers and trackers who protect the rhinos, in Namibia.
This announcement coincides with the International Ranger Federation's (IRF's) World Ranger Day, which takes place yearly on July 31.
World Ranger Day was established on the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of the IRF and has been observed globally since 2007. The day recognises and celebrates rangers who are at the forefront of conservation efforts around the world by protecting natural and cultural resources. It also commemorates rangers that are injured or killed in the line of duty.
Through its donation of 1 000 oz of gold (valued at about $1.9-million at July 28) from its Otjikoto mine in north-central Namibia, B2Gold has produced 1 000 limited edition Namibian Rhino Gold Bars in various sizes.
To celebrate the launch of the campaign in North America, 400 one-ounce gold bars will be on sale on Kitco Metals' (Kitco) retail website. Kitco has agreed to process these transactions at cost to further benefit black rhino conservation and protection efforts in Namibia and local communities whose livelihoods depend on the survival of the species.
Each one-ounce bar is available for purchase at the spot price of gold plus a 15% conservation premium.
The 15% premium is a way to extend the positive impact of each gold bar sold in support of rangers, trackers and black rhino conservation and protection. It will be used to fund the future production of more gold bars, or gold medallions, the second limited edition of which will be distinctly different from the first mintage.
The gold bars feature symbols of hope for the future of the black rhino. With a striking image of a rhino mother and calf on the back, and an iconic image of Namibia, the Namib Desert, on the front – the gold bars are presented in a box made of sustainably-harvested material.
As a result of poaching, which is driven by the illegal rhino horn trade, more than 1 000 wild rhinos are killed for their horns in Africa, each year. The north-west region of Namibia is home to the last and largest population of free-roaming black rhinos in the world, but with fewer than 5 630 black rhinos left in the wild, the need for rhino conservation and protection has never been so critical.
One of the key challenges for successful conservation and protection of the black rhinos is that they live in a rural area that covers 25 000 km2 with no national park status, few roads and little control as to who can access the area. The monitoring and safety of this population of black rhinos is attributed to the commitment of organisations, such as Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and Rhino Rangers, as well as local communities.
More recently, the biggest challenge to the success of black rhino conservation and protection is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Organisations such as SRT and IRDNC, which provide critical field-based support to rhino rangers and trackers, have had their budgets slashed as international donors have had to pass along cuts to their own budgets as a result of the pandemic.
Furthermore, a number of areas within the rhino range have been left exposed by the lack of tourists because of the pandemic, which now require extra patrolling efforts by SRT, IRDNC and Rhino Rangers. In turn, this leads to a need for increased resources at a time when conservation funding is being cut.
Rhino tracking has been central to tourism development in the region and has provided local jobs and a source of income for local communities. However, the knock-on effect of the pandemic in terms of job security and the protection of the black rhino is potentially devastating for a region that has worked so hard to develop a rhino-based economy.
Purchasers of the gold bars will receive ongoing information and updates from the Rhino Gold Bar Advisory Committee as to how their investment is helping to redefine conservation financing and how funds are being used to save the black rhino from extinction.
Proceeds from the sale of the first 600 gold bars to Namibian and African purchasers have been managed and distributed by the committee.
Funds have been allocated to help counteract the impact of the pandemic by providing salaries to keep rhino rangers and trackers in the field for the next 12 months, maintaining adequate patrol levels to diminish the threat of poaching and sustain population growth, raising awareness about the importance of black rhino conservation to reinforce community support, and upgrading communication systems to ensure the rapid response of rhino rangers and trackers during a crisis situation.
Proceeds from the sale of the 400 gold bars in North America will continue to be managed and distributed by the committee.