Black rhino numbers on the rise in Kenya

Posted on August, 25 2006

Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts by WWF and other wildlife groups, black rhino numbers are on the rise in Kenya after years of decline from poaching and habitat loss.
Nairobi, Kenya – Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts by WWF and the Kenya Wildlife Service, black rhino numbers are on the rise in Kenya after years of decline from poaching and habitat loss.

According to officials, the country's black rhino population stood at 539 animals at the end of 2005, compared to 428 animals in 2003.

"This shows a healthy increase that surpassed our targets," said Dr Taye Teferi, Conservation Programme Director with WWF's Eastern Africa Regional Programme Office, based in Nairobi. "Considering the intense poaching pressure and the demand for rhino horn, this is no mean achievement."

The population growth is attributed to improved rhino protection, particularly through managing existing populations and ensuring that their habitats are suitable for foraging and reproducing.

Despite the good news, WWF still warns that there is no room for complacency. Black rhinos in Kenya and other parts of Africa are still under threat, especially from poachers who see the animal’s horn as a source of income. Rhino horn is in high demand in parts of Asia where it is often crushed into a powder and used for traditional medicine. In the Middle East, rhino horn is still fashioned into curved handles for ceremonial daggers.

WWF, through its black rhino project, is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service to increase Kenya's black rhino population to 1,000 by 2020 through the expansion of existing rhino sanctuaries and through the establishment of new protected areas that can accommodate future population growth.

“With increased improvement in wildlife management and monitoring, the black rhino population can continue to show a healthy growth rate for many years to come,” added Dr Teferi.


• Black rhinos were once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the Congo Basin. They are now limited to a patchy distribution from Cameroon in the west, to Kenya in the east and south to South Africa. Present in habitats ranging from desert in the southwest to montane forests in Kenya, the black rhino is found mainly in grassland-forest transition zones.

• In Kenya, numbers of the eastern sub-species of black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) dropped from an estimated 20,000 in 1970 to less than 500 animals in the early 1980s. This drastic decline was due to poaching which took place unabatedly inside and outside national parks and reserves.

• The international commercial trade of black rhinos and their parts, including their horns, has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) since 1977.

• Kenya's Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino (2001–2005) was developed at a workshop in 2000 with financial assistance from WWF. Workshop participants included Kenya Wildlife Service staff, private landowners, donors and technical experts.

For further information:
Anne Mugo, Rhino Project Officer
Tel: +254 20 3877355

Kimunya Mugo, Communications Manager
Tel: +254 20 3877355

Black rhinos(Diceros bicornis) locking horns in Kenya's Lake Nakuru National Park.
© WWF / Martin Harvey