A New Era For Rhino Conservation

It's good news!

Africa’s struggle with wildlife endangerment has long been epitomized by the plight of the rhino, driven by illegal poaching and loss of habitat. Since as far back as the 70s, their total numbers have declined by a staggering 95%. 

Fortunately, we are entering a chapter of optimism in the rhino conservation saga, with several projects successfully working to protect this African icon from extinction. If you’d like an update on black and white rhino conservation success efforts for 2024, you’re in the right place. We’ve listed a few below:  

Ukanda Wa Vifaru, Kenya

As of 2023, there is officially a new rhino conservation corridor under development in Kenya called Ukanda Wa Vifaru. A whopping 22 conservancies have come together to form the Laikipia Conservancies Association. Their collective mission is to establish a 556,000-acre rhino corridor connecting the existing wildlife sanctuaries of Ol Pejeta, Ol Jogi, Borana, and Lewa. While the project has a long road ahead, the corridor will allow rhinos to access a far greater range of healthy, high-quality, and protected habitats.  

Ukanda Rhino Corridor

Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

From a working cattle ranch to a rewilding conservation success story, Kenya’s famed Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a must if you’re seeking a reputable rhino conservation safari in Africa. 

Not only is it home to the last surviving Northern white rhinos (Najin and her daughter, Fatu), but it’s also the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa. Ol Pejeta boasts a cutting-edge wildlife security system with a specialized and armed rhino protection unit, K-9 unit, motion sensor cameras and a solar-powered electric fence. This protection doesn’t come cheap – it costs $850 per month to protect one rhino, but it works. They haven’t lost a rhino to illegal poaching in over five years. 

Efforts to protect Africa’s rhino population often involve relocation between reserves and that’s where the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) comes in. Since 2014, the organisation has translocated 230 rhinos to create 15 new black rhino populations on sites across South Africa and Malawi, where collectively, more than 200 rhino calves have been born. 

The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP)

Black Rhino

The Timbavati Wildlife Protection Programme, South Africa

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve’s (TPNR) anti-rhino poaching initiative is effective in detecting and deterring poaching incursions. Along with embracing technology, they have adopted a para-militaristic approach to prevent high-level poaching syndicates. Their diligent ranger team is led by Anton Mzimba, a prominent figurehead raising concern for the future of South Africa’s wildlife. He is featured in the 2024 film Rhino Man, which showcases the extent of field ranger training and how modern anti-poaching strategies work at all levels.  

Rave Rhino at Tala Collection Game Reserve, South Africa

South Africa’s Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve reports one of the highest rhino poaching rates in the country. Figures released by WWF indicate that 62% (307) of the total number lost in South Africa in 2023 (499) were illegally poached there.  

Fortunately, there is good news in other parts of the KwaZulu-Natal Province concerning rhino protection. Since 2014, South African NPO, Rave Rhino, has been assisting Tala Collection Game Reserve as an anti-poaching unit. Despite little official funding and being predominantly volunteer based, they have successfully protected the reserve’s growing white rhino population (with a new baby born in November 2023). They conduct regular dehorning and microchipping procedures, which they open to the public in exchange for donations. The fee they require is also significantly less than what you’d pay at premier reserves and concessions. 

Malilangwe Trust, Zimbabwe

In 1994, the not-for-profit Malilangwe Trust was established as a result of the largest-ever single donor investment towards wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe. After introducing 28 black and 15 white rhinos to the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in 1998, it now boasts one of the largest rhino population densities in Africa and has played a significant role in restocking rhinos in other reserves across the continent. Today, The Trust remains a pioneer in developing a blueprint for creating harmony between conservation initiatives and community development.

Marataba, South Africa

In this webinar on rhino trade, Colin Bell, Founder of Wilderness Safaris, states that between 2012 to 2002, the number of South Africa’s rhinos held within private reserves rose from 25% to 52%. This shift in this ratio has proved a positive development, with several private reserves spearheading conservation efforts.  

One such example is Marataba, a privately owned section of Marakele National Park. It stands as one of the country’s most innovative conservation models as it spearheads habitat restoration, research, and data collection. Rhino monitoring and management is a core function of Marataba’s conservation team with an open invitation to the public to come along and get involved with elective procedures such as rhino notching and dehorning. 

rhino conservation

AI developments in rhino conservation

One of the most exciting developments in rhino conservation is the AI-related efforts that have occurred within the last decade. Some brilliant minds are working to develop new technologies such as the Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) – a machine learning system that creates geospatial mapping tools to enable efficient deployment of rangers. Another analytic tool worth mentioning is the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS). This is currently being developed at Harvard University to assist in predicting where poachers are most likely to strike.  

The future of rhinos

The reality is that as long as there is perceived value placed on the horn, attempted poaching and illegal trade will continue. The only way to prevent the further decimation of rhino numbers in the wild is if more people are willing to back current protection and management efforts that are operating successfully. Right now, the onus is on all of us to help where we can.  

Want to do your part in safeguarding Africa’s black and white rhinos? Get in touch with our team at: safaris@africatvl.com or: 303 473 0950

Did you know?

Despite being referred to as ‘black’ and ‘white’, African rhinos are naturally grey in color. One theory is that ‘white’ originated from the Dutch word ‘wijd’, meaning wide. These early settlers in South Africa were said to have observed the white rhino’s wide, square mouth, and the name stuck. Black rhinos (pictured below) are predominantly characterized by their pointed upper lip. They are also smaller and stockier in stature than white rhinos. 

Black rhino

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