BREC is an acronym for the “Conservation of the Black Rhinoceros in the Erongo Volcanic Crater”. The aim of the BREC e.V. is the re-naturalisation and conservation of the flora and fauna in wilderness areas. The first project, from which the association takes its name, is in the Erongo volcanic crater in Namibia.


The Erongo volcanic crater was formed when the supercontinent Gondwana broke up 180 million years ago. It is the largest remaining ring complex in southern Africa. The crater rim and floor form a clearly-defined, unified landscape with a diameter of roughly 30 km. The floor of the crater is 1,400 m above sea level; the highest peak 2,305 m. The terrain of the Erongo region is rugged and arid.

Up until the end of the 19th century the Erongo was, with the exception of very extensive usage during the rainy season, almost untouched by humans. The most common subjects of the cave paintings were rhinoceroses, elephants and giraffes. The extensive presence of these animals in the region was also documented by the reports of early European explorers. Grinding stones made from rhinoceros horn are further proof of their former existence in the region.

Early in the 20th century, German settlers began practising agriculture in the Erongo region. They erected fences and built artificial water holes for their cattle and later, as a result of the 1960s fashion for animal furs, karakul sheep. Under both German and, following the First World War, South African administrations, economic use of the territory was based on the political goal of consolidating rule over the land by means of colonisation. The state pursued this goal with the use of subsidies: water shortages and barren earth would otherwise prohibit any cost-covering agricultural usage. The cattle and, with even more devastating effect, the karakul sheep have over-grazed the region, particularly near the man-made water holes, which led to the massive invasion of the territory by bushes, creating inhospitable scrubland. Hook-lipped rhinoceroses trampled down the fences and were hunted as pests. The last hook-lipped rhino was moved from Erongo to the Etosha National Park in 1974. Elephants had already been hunted to extinction by ivory hunters by the end of the 19th century.

With the independence of Namibia in 1989 and the resulting loss of subsidies, there was a shift in emphasis from agricultural land use to extensive and sustainable tourism. In 1998 the Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary Trust (, which covers a territory of roughly 200,000 ha, was founded by the majority of the landowners in the volcanic crater and the neighbouring areas. The Trust forbids agricultural land use and is dedicated to re-naturalisation projects: its goal is to re-introduce formerly indigenous animal species and to breed and maintain sustainable populations. Any economic use of the land must obey the primary goal of sustainability, which means that only individual tourism is permitted. The Trust works closely and effectively with the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism (MET), and with the Tubusis Community, a political alliance of people living in the area.

One result of the good cooperation is the resettlement of the hook-lipped rhinoceros in the Erongo. The Trust became the custodian in 2007 of six hook-lipped rhinoceroses from the Etosha National Park, with two more following in 2009. Two calfs had already been born by 2011. This success must be evaluated in its context: the number of free-roaming hook-lipped rhinoceroses was reduced, mostly through poaching, from 250,000 in 1960 to barely 2,000 in 2012. Poaching is largely inspired by the mistaken belief that powdered rhino horn has an aphrodisiac effect when ingested, as well as by the Yemeni tradition of using rhino horns to make sheaths for daggers. In an attempt to minimise the risk of poaching, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,, the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature,, the Save the Rhino Trust (, and the Namibian nature conservation agency have developed a strategy of distributing the rhinoceros population over a broader geographical area. Before the re-introduction of the rhinoceroses, the Erongo region was appraised by experts from the MET. It was determined that the goal should be a sustainable population of 70 rhinos. The Erongo would then be eligible for the status of a rhinoceros sanctuary “of world importance”. Hook-lipped rhinoceroses, according to CITES, are categorised with the most urgent status of critically endangered species. They are listed in the so-called Appendix 1.

Other endangered species which are present in the Erongo regions in stable numbers are Hartmann mountain zebras, klipspringer, Damara dik-diks, leopards, brown hyenas and black-faced impalas. Elephants have also returned to the Erongo. There are also breeding populations of peregrine falcons, black eagles and booted eagles. There are in addition seven endemic indigenous bird species, including Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and Rüppell’s Parrot, as well as many indigenous reptiles, for example the Angolan Python. The Erongo has along with the Brandberg the greatest level of biodiversity in Namibia.

The main measures taken by the BREC to re-naturalise and protect the special flora and fauna of the Erongo region include:
- combating poaching, which is closely linked to
- banning illegal prospecting for semiprecious stones
- scrub clearance and
- the removal of fences.

One important prerequisite for our success is successful lobby work with political decision makers and the local population, getting them involved and participating.

The re-naturalisation of the Erongo and other areas, and the development and maintenance of populations of endangered species, are major, long-term projects. We at the BREC believe that, with stamina and endurance, we can achieve our goals.

We hope that you find the BREC e.V. worthy of your support.