Rhino conservation in South Africa’s North-West Province

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Republic of South Africa

Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). Adult and calf. Southern Africa and East Africa.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Summary

South Africa’s North-West Province, a largely flat region of scattered trees and grassland, is home to both black and white rhinos.

To help protect these endangered species, WWF is assisting the North-West Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB), the authority responsible for a number of protected areas within the province, to improve rhino conservation. This includes range expansion, aerial and field surveys, and tagging activities. Increased surveillance will also improve the general security of these animals.

Background

The NWPTB administers 14 protected areas within the North-West Province in South Africa. There are 5 parks (Borakalalo national park, Botsalano game reserve, Mafikeng game reserve, Madikwe game reserve and Pilanesberg national park) which harbour 2 important white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) populations according to criteria set by the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).

Responsible management and monitoring of the white rhino populations requires a better understanding of:
- Structures of the populations, such as sex and age.
- Reproduction, including age of first calving, inter-calving rates of the individual cows, age at which the reproductive rate drops.
- Territoriality, including the size and distribution of home ranges.

The project supports the incremental ear-notching of rhinos as well as implanting passive transponders into horns and rhinos in order to link specific horns to specific rhinos. The cumulative effect of this exercise will improve both the biological and security monitoring of individual rhinos in the parks.

Objectives

Assist the NWPTB in maintaining its high level of management, conservation and protection of rhinoceros by providing funding support for specialized equipment and services.

Specific objectives:

1. Create a further important white rhino population within the NWPTB.

2. Further enhance the security of the white and black rhino populations by training staff in field techniques.

3. Improve the identification of white and black rhino populations through micro-chipping and ear-notching.

4. Optimise the potential for tracking and identifying rhino horns/parts within the SADC region.

Solution

1. A monitoring strategy has been devised whereby the rhinos are ear notched. This allows them to be individually identifiable through aerial or ground surveys.
2. Field staff are trained to conduct ground surveys to collect more frequent and detailed population dynamics data, such as sex and age data, breeding periods, calving intervals, home ranges, and territories of individuals and also general movement and distribution.
3. Ear-notched animals should also be implanted with transponder micro-chips to facilitate post-mortem identification. Photographic records for identification purposes of all known animals should be updated regularly.
4. In the smaller parks, each rhino can be individually marked, thus providing valuable information for management to fully understand each population. In the larger parks the strategy is to have at least one third of the population individually marked to enable the development of a statistically sound and repeatable population estimate.
5. This ‘mark-recapture’ methodology contributes to a better understanding of a wide range of general population data vital to good rhino management. The increased surveillance of the white rhinos will also improve the general security of these animals.

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