WWF to move critically endangered rhinos to new habitats

Posted on 09 December 2010    
Translocated Black Rhino with calf
© WWF/Scott Frame, Phinda Private Game Reserve

As part of its successful range expansion programme, WWF will translocate an additional 20 black rhinoceros to new landscapes in 2011, according to an agreement with a South African wildlife agency.

The rhinos will come from reserves administered by the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency (ECPTA), a public entity that manages wildlife parks other natural areas in South Africa.

WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase the number of critically endangered black rhinoceros by moving populations to newly established habitat areas, which helps to increase breeding rates. Since 2003, the project has translocated 98 black rhinos to 6 different sites resulting in the births of at least 26 calves. 

There are currently about 4,700 black rhinos in Africa, up from a low of approximately 2,100 in the early 1990s. However, rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate largely due to the illicit demand for their horns, which are used in traditional Asian medicine.  At least 250 of South Africa’s rhinos have been killed in 2010.

“There are two sides to good rhino conservation. One is intensive security for existing populations. The other is managing to make sure that your population grows as fast as possible,” says Dr. Jacques Flamand, WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project Leader. “If you do not manage for high population growth rate, then effectively over time you are losing a lot of animals that could have been born. Rapid population growth rate can mean the difference between survival and extinction for a critically endangered species.”

Growth rates at some range expansion sites have topped 7% per year, according to Flamand. “Also, indications are that the growth rate is improving in donor populations,” he says.

The agency’s decision to donate the rhinos comes as its key population reaches the carrying capacity of its habitat. “We are proud of the fact that we have successfully tripled the number of black rhino in our reserves in the past decade,” says Sybert Liebenberg, ECPTA’s CEO. “This has enabled us to be in a position where we can contribute to the further growth of the national black rhino population by participating in WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion programme.”




Translocated Black Rhino with calf
© WWF/Scott Frame, Phinda Private Game Reserve Enlarge

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