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Endangered Black Rhino has a Population Surge

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Ben Dolbear reviews the good news for black rhinos in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Photo by Andy Martin | Location: South Africa

Crackdowns on the illegal horn trade and bold relocation programmes are among measures that have enabled seven years of growth among the black rhino population, with increasing numbers being found in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The species officially known as Diceros bicornis experienced near-extinction in the early- to mid-1990s. Whilst figures are always uncertain for wild animals, estimates suggest that there were less that 2,500 black rhinos in Africa by 1995. As a result, the black rhino joins only 2,464 other species on the 'critically endangered' list today.

And yet, thanks to measures imposed by national governments and international organisations cracking down on aggressive poaching and coordinating relocation initiatives, there has been a significant average 2.5% population increase every year between 2012 and 2018.

This means that black rhino numbers have risen from 4,845 eight years ago to an estimated 5,630 in 2018, undoing some of the devastating results of twentieth century rhino poaching by what the WWF have called 'European hunters and settlers'.

One recent project that has enabled this population increase is the collaboration between the British 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles and African Parks to transport seventeen black rhinos by land and air from South Africa to southern Malawi, where the illegal wildlife trade has suffered thanks to superior patrolling activities and information-sharing between organisations. Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife have committed to 'intensively monitor the rhinos as they settle in to their new environment'.

According to Grethel Aguilar, acting director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature:

The continued slow recovery is a testament to the immense efforts made in the countries and a powerful reminder that conservation works.

The picture is more bleak for white rhinos, who thanks to their larger horns are more valuable than their black counterparts, and heavy levels of poaching in South Africa’s Kruger national park saw their numbers fall by 15% between 2007 and 2012.

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