World Bank raises $150 million for rhino conservation in South Africa

Rhinos look into camera, Poachers kill 259 endangered rhinos in South Africa
Two black rhinos, mother and calf, photo: WLDavies via Canva

The World Bank raised $150 million to help efforts to increase the critically endangered black rhino population in South Africa, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday.

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to the governments of low- and middle-income countries, usually to pursue capital projects. This is the first time the institution has given money for wildlife conservation.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, the population of black rhinos fell by 96% to around 2,400 due to poaching to meet the demand for their horns in China and the Middle East, according to animal welfare organization Save The Rhino International.

Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN, only 3,142 mature individuals are left in the wild.

Black rhinos are found only in Africa; around half of their total population is found in South Africa.

Wildlife Conservation Bond
The Wildlife Conservation Bond will contribute to protecting and increasing black rhino populations in South Africa without adding to the country’s debt, the organization said.

The five-year Wildlife Conservation Bond will pay investors returns based on the rate of growth of black rhino populations at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve (GFRNR), the bank said.

After five years, investors get a return of between 3.7% and 9.2% if the population increases. If there is no change in the black rhino population, investors get no return on investment.

The Wildlife Conservation Bond tests a new model for conservation financing where investors provide funding for conservation efforts and accept that they’ll only get a return if the project is successful, the organization said.

The design of this new financial instrument is in line with the shift in the mindset of global investors, who are seeking more opportunities to generate positive, measurable, environmental, and social impact alongside a financial return.

“If rhino target growth rates are achieved, it’s a win-win for the species, investors, South Africa, conservation actors, and donors,” Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President and Treasurer, said.

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