Black rhino expansion | WWF South Africa

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Black rhino range expansion

© WWF / Green Renaissance

The critically endangered black rhino is a flagship species for creating larger blocks of land for conservation purposes, resulting in wider protection of other wildlife too. Alas, there is no single solution or quick fix to the poaching epidemic.

What is the issue?

Black rhino were once widely distributed across Africa but the population plummeted from possibly 100 000 in the 1960s to fewer than 2 500 by the mid-1990s through poaching and habitat loss.

Since then, through intensive protection, black rhino numbers have doubled to over 5 000. Approximately 2 000 black rhinos are now found in South Africa. However poaching remains an ever present threat and it is essential to increase numbers of the critically endangered animals as quickly as possible.

What are we doing?

As part of a long-term strategy, WWF runs the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) aimed at increasing growth rate and numbers of the critically endangered species.

​Who do we work with?

We work with private and community landholders as well as state conservation agencies to identify large blocks of land on which to establish new black rhino populations.

How do we do this?

WWF facilitates partnerships with landowners who have good black rhino habitat for creating new breeding populations. This often involves encouraging neighbouring landowners to remove the internal fences between them.

BRREP then coordinates the translocation of groups of up to 20 or more black rhino to these new sites. Managing for rapid population growth is an important element of conservation of critically endangered species.

​How did it start?

WWF has been involved with conserving African rhinos, black and white, since the 1960s. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project began in 2003.

What are the big wins?

  1. Since 2003 the project has successfully created 12 new black rhino populations in South Africa.

  2. 201 black rhino have been moved to these project sites.

  3. There are approximately 90 surviving calves on project sites to date.

  4. Project sites cover more than 250 000 hectares in South Africa.

  5. Six of the twelve sites have community involvement.

  6. Black rhino are a flagship species. Because of BRREP’s work, many landowners have consolidated smaller pieces of habitat into more ecologically viable blocks. Other critically endangered species which need large areas of land, such as wild dog, vultures and cheetah, also benefit.