Former WWF employee wins environmental prize for rhino conservation



Posted on 12 April 2011  | 
On April 11, 2011 the Goldman Environmental Foundation announced the 6 recipients of the 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize. This prize is awarded to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world's six continents. Africa's winner this year was our very own, former WWF employee, Raoul Du Toit from the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe.

In 1988, Du Troit developed a WWF project to survey the status of black rhinos in the Zambezi Valley. Following this he assisted with the establishment of the Lowveld Rhino Conservancy Project for WWF Southern Africa Regional Programme Office, which ran up until 2009. In 2009, Raoul set up the Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT) as an independent, stakeholder-based body to completely subsume the former Rhino Conservancy Project. LRT receives funding from various donors primarily via the International Rhino Foundation with a proportion of budget still provided by WWF through the Africa Rhino Programme.

Zimbabwe has the fourth largest rhino population in Africa. In 1992 there were 85 rhinos in the Lowveld conservancies in Zimbabwe. This was less than 5% of Zimbabwe's total rhino population. There are now 530 rhinos, which is 77% of Zimbabwe's total population. A total of 21 rhinos were poached in the Lowveld in 2010, compared to the 71 in 2009.

The Goldman Environmental Prize awards $150,000 to the 6 Heroes of the Environment. Du Troit stated at a press conference held at the WWF Zimbabwe Office that he is going to use the prize money to further develop the Lowveld Rhino Trust's work in particular with the communities in the lowveld in Zimbabwe.  “We have fantastic animals in Africa that deserve to live and not be wiped out by greed. We have to save these animals for the future generations,” Du Troit said.

WWF Zimbabwe has had a very close working relationship with Du Troit, who has been commonly referred to around WWF Zimbabwe office as, “Chipembere,” which is the Shona (local language of Zimbabwe) word for rhino.  We congratulate him for his outstanding service to the conservation of rhinos in Zimbabwe and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

A black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Zimbabwe.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey Enlarge

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