Rhino populations in particular are under immense pressure

How innovative funding can help protect the black rhino population

  • In fact, the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest global crime, estimated at between $7 billion and $23 billion a year.
  • Creating long-term financing solutions to conserve species and engage people through livelihood development is critical to increasing conservation efforts.
  • Known as the Rhino Bond, the Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) is a five-year, $150 million sustainable development bond that will help protect and increase black rhino populations in two protected areas in South Africa.
  • What makes the Rhino Bond special is that it is a financial instrument that channels investments to achieve specific conservation outcomes – in this case measured by an increase in black rhino populations.

When asked about illegal activities around the world, most people would consider drugs, human trafficking, and guns. What might not immediately come to mind is the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products – but in fact it is the fourth largest global crime, estimated at between $7 billion and $23 billion a year, and often by sophisticated, international and well organized criminal networks.

The cost of conservation efforts is increasing

Most of the wildlife trade is legal and by no means always a problem, but combined with the illegal activity on an industrial scale and the overall decline in species on Earth, with global animal populations declining by almost 70% in 50 years, we are faced with the prospect of living in a world without some of their most iconic species.

Rhino populations in particular are under immense pressure, with wild numbers falling from 70,000 in 1970 to just around 27,000 today, and it is reported that 96% of black rhinos were poached between 1972 and 1996. Driven by demand for rhino horn, which has reached unprecedented levels, driving up prices and poaching, with horn values ​​reportedly reaching as high as $60,000 per kg. The resulting illegal trade is pushing rhinos to a tipping point where deaths will exceed births.

As a result of this pressure, the cost of conservation efforts to protect rhino populations is increasing. Many protected areas face funding gaps as traditional funding sources are no longer sufficient to keep up with such a sophisticated and large-scale criminal operation. Conservation managers struggle to raise the money needed to manage and protect rhinos day-to-day, let alone what may be needed to sustain their efforts over the long term.

Unfortunately, this reflects the broader challenge of protecting biodiversity. According to the Paulson Institute et al. 2020, there is an annual funding gap for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation estimated at $598 billion to $824 billion per year over the next decade.

Biodiversity loss and climate change are happening at unprecedented speed, threatening human survival. Nature is in crisis, but there is hope. Investing in nature can not only increase our resilience to socioeconomic and environmental shocks, but also help societies thrive.

There is a strong understanding within the forum that the future must be net-zero and nature-positive. The Nature Action Agenda initiative within the Platform for Accelerating Nature-based Solutions is an inclusive, multi-stakeholder movement driving economic action to halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

Vibrant and thriving natural ecosystems are the foundation of human well-being and prosperity. The Future of Nature and Business Report found that nature-friendly changes in key sectors are good for the economy and could generate up to $10.1 trillion in annual enterprise value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

To support these transitions, the Platform for Accelerating Nature-based Solutions has convened a community of Champions for Nature who promote the sustainable stewardship of the planet for the benefit of business and society. The Nature Action Agenda also recently launched the 100 Million Farmers Initiative to drive the transition of the food and farming system to a regenerative model, and the BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative to create an urban development model that will is in harmony with nature.

Contact us if you would like to contribute to this effort or join one of our communities.

Shifting the conservation funding model

It is a complicated problem that combines high demand and organized crime at the global level with poverty, corruption, weak enforcement and political instability at the local level. Creating long-term financing solutions to conserve species and engage people through livelihood development will depend on how conservation is funded.

Addressing this problem requires a targeted and scalable approach. that combines investment opportunities with measurable improvements. And such a solution now exists — the “Rhino Bond,” which aims to directly link rhino conservation results to investor payouts and investment success.

The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD) recently set the price of the Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) in support of South Africa’s efforts to protect endangered species through a partnership with Credit Suisse as the bond’s sole structurer.

Rhino populations are concentrated in Africa and they are further concentrated in South Africa, where an estimated 79% of the African rhino population lives. They are considered an umbrella species and have a decisive influence on entire ecosystems on which countless other animals depend.

Also known as the “Rhino Bond”, the WCB is a five-year, $150 million sustainable development bond that will help protect and enhance black rhino populations in two protected areas in South Africa: the Addo Elephant National Park and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve. Proceeds from the bond will support funding for World Bank sustainable development projects and programs worldwide, some of which focus on biodiversity. Instead of being paid to investors, coupon payments on the WCB of US$10 million will be paid to the two sanctuaries to fund rhino conservation.

It is hoped that the bond will:

  • Conserve and increase critically endangered rhino populations
  • Protect biodiversity and support improvements in planetary health
  • Change conservation funding strategies and increase opportunities for investment in conservation activities.

Measuring success by number of black rhino populations

What makes the Rhino Bond special is that it is a financial instrument that channels investments to achieve specific conservation outcomes – in this case measured by an increase in black rhino populations. It includes a potential benefit payment from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) based on a rate of growth in rhino populations. Crucially, the model is grounded in metrics and evidence, which encourages stakeholders to analyze and understand conservation issues, define progress and focus on outcomes, shifting the focus from short-term outcomes to long-term impacts.

Through the WCB, private sector investments can be made directly to fund activities to protect and raise an endangered species, with additional potential benefits through a direct contribution to biodiversity and the creation of jobs for local communities through job creation related with nature conservation a rural and underserved region of South Africa. This promotes a mindset shift for communities that have rich natural capital resources on their doorstep, which is critical to the long-term success of currently threatened species.

The WCB model offers a new blueprint for how conservation is funded and has the potential to be a key tool for the implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Excitingly, there are ways to replicate and scale the model to address other conservation and climate action and development goals around the world, such as elephants, and even certain protected areas themselves.

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