Black rhino will disappear if we do nothing | WWF South Africa

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Black rhino will disappear if we do nothing

A further thirteen black rhino have recently been translocated from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves to another property in northern KwaZulu-Natal. 

A further thirteen black rhino have recently been translocated from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves to another property in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Since 2003, WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) has helped create eight new populations in an effort to increase the number of critically endangered animals in South Africa. These populations reside in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo on land totalling over 160 000 hectares.

Dr Jacques Flamand, the head of BRREP, says, “More than 130 black rhino have been moved to new homes, while over 40 calves have been born on project sites.”

Translocating rhinos requires dedicated, skilled teams, who constantly work to improve their translocation methods in an effort to reduce the stress caused to the animals. Flamand explains that during the latest translocation blood samples were taken for testing to ensure that airlifting sedated rhinos for short distances by their ankles does not stress the animals at all.

“We believe this is the best way to move rhinos as it does not compromise their breathing and reduces the distance and time they have to travel by truck over difficult terrain. While indications are that it does not harm the animals, we want to be absolutely sure,” adds Flamand.

Flamand has dedicated the last ten years to creating new populations to help boost black rhino numbers. He explains, “People have caused the decline in rhino numbers and, as people, it is up to us to reverse the trend. If we do nothing, they will disappear and I’d hate for that tragedy to happen in my lifetime.”

Frequently asked questions:
  • How many black and white rhino are left in the wild?
    There are about 20 000 white rhino and nearly 5 000 black rhino.

  • How many rhinos have been poached this year in South Africa?
    By the beginning of October, 430 rhinos had been poached in 2012.

  • Why must some black rhinos be moved to new areas?
    This spreads the risk and boosts population growth, both on new reserves and existing reserves from which rhino are moved.

  • Does it hurt rhinos to be transported by their feet?
    No. Generally speaking the limbs of an animal are in proportion to its body mass, so be it a mouse, a cat or an elephant, hanging them by four feet is proportionately the same and the muscles, connective tissue, bones and joints can cope with lifting by that means. Anaesthetised elephants are routinely hung by the feet with cranes at capture to move them while sleeping. There is no evidence of any ill effects. All the animals get up and walk normally as soon as they wake up. In our experience, no rhinos have shown any signs of harm. They have awoken normally and started eating immediately after release - a sure sign that they are not in distress. The airlift generally lasts less than 20 minutes and the animal is deeply asleep during the whole process. It is only woken up with an antidote after it has been put gently on the ground.
A black rhino is airlifted to a new home in KwaZulu-Natal where it will become part of a new population aimed at boosting growth rate of the critically endangered species.

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