A major initiative by ZSL, Kenyan Wildlife Service and conservation partners to move rhinos from over-stocked fenced sanctuaries into large unfenced areas has begun. The black rhino is ranked 7th on the EDGE list of over 5,000 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) mammals.
For the first time in over 25 years, black rhinos are once again allowed to range freely in their former habitat in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya. This has been possible after an intensive protection zone was setup.
In total ten rhinos are being moved from Ngulia – one of Kenya’s main fenced rhino sanctuaries based in Tsavo West National Park – into the Intensive Protection Zone. The Tsavos used to have about 7000 rhinos only 35 years ago. This extensive area of over 20,000 km2 has some of the best rhino habitat and is crucial for meeting the long term conservation target of 2000 rhinos.
This is a bold initiative and a big milestone in the Kenyan Rhino Conservation Plan initiated by Kenyan Wildlife Service and ZSL. In Kenya, black rhino numbers dropped from an estimated 20,000 to less than 400 within two decades in the 1970s and 80s. This drastic decline was mainly due to poaching for their horn, which took place unabatedly inside and outside protected areas, parks and reserves.
However, through effective protection and biological management numbers of rhinos now continue to increase within sanctuaries at an annual rate of 4-5%.
Many of these populations have reached their ecological capacity and therefore in order to main the high growth rates a new phase of conservation of black rhino in Kenya has been initiated. Currently, the total population of black rhinos in Kenya is estimated at be 570.
ZSL’s Dr Rajan Amin, techical advisor to the Kenyan rhino programme says: ‘With further releases, and a naturally growing population, ZSL is hoping that Kenya could have as many as 150 free-ranging rhinos by 2011, with a long-term aim of getting numbers up to about 2,000 across the country.’
Watch videos showing some of the relocations here.
ZSL, the conservation charity behind the EDGE programme, has a long history in supporting the recovery of rhino in Kenya. Find out more about ZSL’s field conservation projects here.