SAVING THE BLACK RHINO

Robert Ochieng writing in the Sunday Observer in January said that a pregnant black rhino kept in the protective enclave of the Singita Grumeti Reserve in the Serengeti National Park gave hope of saving the black rhino, one of the world’s rare species from extinction. If it gave birth it would give new hope that the once zoo-bred rhinos can breed in the wild at levels high enough to keep the local population alive into the future. Besides cutting them off completely from human contact, the next most important thing that can be done is to protect their habitat so that they can breed easily and adapt to the wild nature.

Initially being fed on manufactured food products while at separate zoos in the UK before they were flown into the Singita Grumeti Reserve, the rhinos have now adapted to the wild vegetation.

South African investor Paul Tudor Jones was planning to purchase 45 rhinos from his country to be donated to the Tanzanian government. The Government had previously admitted that besides the current world economic crunch having significantly affected tourism in the country, poaching had continued to deal a devastating blow to the country’s highest foreign exchange earner.

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Shamsa Mwangunga said: “What we have shown is that in partnership with governments and communities and business it is possible to stave off extinction for the rhino in some of its former range,” Africa’s savannas once teemed with more than a million white and black rhinos. However, relentless hunting by European settlers saw rhino numbers and distribution quickly decline. Added to hunting and habitat loss, trade in rhino horn peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, when huge quantities were shipped to the lucrative markets of the Middle East and Asia.

Responding to the crisis, both species of African rhino were listed in 1977 in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibited all international trade of rhino parts and products.

Despite this international legal protection, the black rhino population at its lowest point dipped to 2,400 in 1995.

In 1997, there were 8,466 white rhinos and 2,599 black rhinos remaining in the wild. Today, there are 14,500 white rhinos and nearly 4,000 of the more endangered black rhinos.

Today, most of Africa’s black rhinos are found in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, where the species’ decline has been stopped through effective security monitoring, better biological management, wildlife-based tourism and extensive assistance to enable communities to benefit from rather than be in conflict with wildlife.

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