Black Rhino Forge New Territory WWF press release The critically endangered black rhino continued to forge new territory when a founder population of 14 animals was released on to a new home in northern KwaZulu-Natal in October. The animals form the fifth founder population created through the WWF/ Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. “The Project has shown how one species can help many,” says WWF project leader Dr Jacques Flamand. “Black rhino range in KwaZulu-Natal has increased by more than 25% (approximately 90 000 hectares) over the last six years. That is excellent for black rhino, but also for many other species that live alongside them. This includes cheetah, wild dog, vultures, elephants and many of the lesser known species that also need large areas of undisturbed wild land.” The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has shown that partnerships between landowners and formal conservation organizations make otherwise unattainable goals possible. Under the custodianship agreements, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife retain ownership of the founder populations and ownership of their progeny is shared. A variety of business models have been created to suit the circumstances of different sites. “The hope is that our experiences can inspire others to replicate what we have done,” said Dr Flamand. “Something this ambitious is not without its challenges, but we have shown that it is possible to drop fences and create large, ecologically viable areas of land that are good for black rhino, for other species, for biodiversity and for landowners. We have been extremely lucky to work with courageous, visionary people who are driven by a passion for wildlife, as well as having sound business heads.” South Africa has had an unprecedented wave of rhino poaching. Just fewer than 100 rhino were poached in 2008, of which 15 were in KwaZulu-Natal. The trend has continued this year. “Fortunately, none have been poached on our Project sites, perhaps partly because good security systems are in place. But no one can afford to be complacent and perhaps we have just been lucky, so all security personnel are on their guard to protect the black rhino under their care,” said Dr Flamand. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project concept is now being expanded beyond the borders of KZN into other regions of South Africa and possibly beyond. Dr Flamand has also visited Malaysia in order to advise about conservation of the Sumatran rhino (which is critically endangered). He was able to share experiences from KZN, and suggest techniques for release and monitoring of Sumatran rhinos, as well as training of guards and opportunities for scientific research. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is a partnership between WWF and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and is supported by the Mazda Wildlife Fund. Fact File • The WWF/ Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase land available for black rhino conservation, thereby increasing numbers of this critically endangered species. This is done by forming partnerships with landowners with large areas of black rhino habitat. Usually several landowners agree to remove internal fences in order to create large enough areas to hold a significant population of black rhino. • The inclusion of community-managed game reserves represents a new conservation model. 44% of the range area of Black Rhino Range Expansion Project sites is community-owned. • Removing black rhino from existing populations to new homes creates new populations and also stimulates population growth on the existing populations. If animals are not removed, the existing populations can suffer from high density and range competition. • Black rhino are critically endangered. There are currently approximately 4000 black rhino in the wild. This represents an increase from the lowest point of just over 2000 early in the 1990s after a wave of poaching decimated almost the entire population of black rhino in Africa. However there is no room for complacency and the recent surge in poaching shows how committed and vigilant rhino conservationists need to be. • There are two kinds of rhino in Africa – black rhino and white rhino. Black rhino have an undeserved reputation of being bad-tempered. In fact, they are just shy and nervous of strangers, and new research suggests they have social structures that were previously not recognized.