Protecting the rhino through translocation
Farmer's Weekly|January 21, 2022
Due to the demand for rhino horn, populations of this iconic mammal have declined over the years. One solution to this is to introduce rhino species into other environments. Mike Knight, chairperson of the African Rhino Specialist Group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, describes the process of translocation.
Mike Knight

Rhino translocations have become a critical tool for protecting these endangered animals. Recently, 30 white rhinos were flown into Rwanda from South Africa and introduced into the Akagera National Park, in the largest-ever single rhino translocation. It was carried out through collaboration between the Rwanda Development Board, African Parks and andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, with funding provided by the Howard G Buffett Foundation.

But moving rhinos to new landscapes and countries is complicated and expensive.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RHINO

Rhinos play a fundamental role in transforming the natural environment. If you take white rhinos out of the system, it changes.

When you compare white and black rhinos, they are very different. At 1 500kg, white rhinos are a much larger species. They move in small groups and are grazers. They are considered ecological engineers, altering the habitat by creating grazing lawns and pushing back bush encroachment. By contrast, the smaller-bodied (800kg to 1 200kg) black rhinos are browsers; they operate more often on their own and are far pickier eaters, and so alter the environment in different ways.

There are two subspecies of white rhinos: southern and northern. Between 40 and 50 years ago, there were more northern whites than southern whites, but that has now reversed entirely. Today there are only two surviving northern white rhinos, which are housed on a private reserve in Kenya.

FAST FACTS

Thirty white rhinos were recently translocated from South Africa to Rwanda.

The demand for rhino horn has resulted in a massive reduction in rhino populations.

Introducing a species into a new environment requires a great deal of research and stakeholder involvement.

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