Black rhino conservation in South Africa’s Kruger National Park

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Republic of South Africa

Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), Africa.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Summary

Black rhino populations in Africa are slowly recovering after being decimated by years of poaching and habitat loss. Once extinct in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, there are now an estimated 300 black rhinos due to ongoing conservation efforts. The park also houses a fast growing population of about 3,000 white rhinos.

WWF is working with South African wildlife authorities in Kruger to increase the number of black rhinos. Scientists believe the park can accommodate at least a further 2,500 black rhinos.

Background

Black rhinos became extinct in the Kruger National Park by 1945. Between 1971 and 1989 a total of 81 black rhinos were re-introduced, with a further 6 animals added in 1998. Presently the black rhino population is estimated to be about 300.

There is a 100,000 ha study area in the high density Southern part of Kruger National Park where a helicopter survey is conducted on an annual basis. Each black rhino encountered is photographed and the relevant age and sex data recorded.

During the 1998 census a total of 74 black rhinos were counted in the study area. Black rhinos in the study area are also marked with ear-notches. A total of 56 animals have thus far been ear-notched in the study area. The mean calf percentage for the past 6 years in the study area was 9%.

The number of black rhinos in Africa was estimated at 2,600 in 1997. Of these, 1,080 occurred in South Africa and 686 in Namibia (Adcock 1998).

Kruger National Park is almost 2 million ha in size and has the capacity to carry at least a further 2,500 black rhinos (Knight, Hall-Martin & Pienaar 1997). The park is considered to be of continental importance for black rhino conservation, because it is one of a few reserves which is large enough to accommodate a genetically and demographically viable population of black rhinos.

The Kruger National Park also houses a fast growing population of about 3,000 white rhinos. This large white rhino population acts as an effective buffer against black rhino poaching as poachers are more likely to encounter the more numerous white rhinos than black rhinos. In the past 10 years only one black rhino has been lost through poaching.

The Kruger National Park has an excellent infrastructure as well as a very effective counter-poaching team.

Objectives

1. Monitor the annual black rhino population performance in the Kruger National Park.

2. Mark sub-adult black rhinos in the high density area with ear notches in order to monitor their dispersal and individual life history.

3. Compile an electronic database of the 10 years of black rhino demographic data recorded in the high density study area.

4. Enhance rhino security in the Kruger National Park through the procurement of specialised equipment.

5. Facilitate the veterinary treatment of injured black rhinos.

6. Monitor the success of translocation of black rhinos from Kwazulu-Natal to Kruger Park.

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