Black rhinos in African have suffered huge reductions in the past, mainly due to poaching. Listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List, there are currently about 5000 animals remaining in the wild (there were 65,000 in 1970). As part of WWF-UK’s support work to raise numbers and improve security around the species – and in light of renewed poaching activities – we took time to review what has been done in Kenya in the last four years to re-adjust plans and make them more effective.
Kenya is home to the third largest black rhino population in the world and rhino conservation efforts are guided by the 2012-16 Strategy (PDF) which has six objectives aimed at:
- Reducing the illegal killing of rhinos
- Improving monitoring for management and protection
- Increasing the rhino growth rate
- Expanding the land available for the rhino meta-population
- Raising awareness with the public in Kenya and elsewhere; as well as
- Co-ordinating all stakeholders (like the Kenya Wildlife Services, judicial services, other governmental departments and non-government organisations) critical for delivering effective implementation.
Evaluating where we are
The starting point for the review was looking back at the last four years to pick up lessons and successes gained so far. This was done by reviewing reports, talking to government and private sector partners as well as communities in Kenya. This was complemented by a workshop that brought all these stakeholders together to adopt recommendations and agree on their individual actions. Looking at the Strategy implementation, a number of good things have been done. These include:
- Reducing poaching has been reduced to 3.2% in 2014 from about 5% of rhinos in 2013
- Generating a GIS database for all rhinos in the country
- Employing more rangers and technological innovations like satellite cameras, ground sensors and drones piloted in the country
- Setting up two intensive protected areas for rhinos – one of which we have significantly supported in East Tsavo.
Looking into the future
A number of things should be done in the remaining period of the Strategy and beyond. These should include: Finishing incomplete sanctuaries like Tsavo East and establishing new ones to which rhinos can be trans-located; and, enhancing anti-poaching measures. The latter ideally should involve increased support to rangers with equipment, training or housing, deploying sniffer dogs in Kenya’s ports to catch any horn smugglers and improving coordination among intelligence and judicial authorities.
Importantly awareness must be raised with the public, government officials and media on the different roles that must be played to make sure rhino conservation is effective in Kenya. All this requires that stakeholders in Kenya continue to work together as well as with other countries in the region and continent. That way, the rhino as an iconic species, entrusted to us by past and future generations of global citizens, will have improved chances of persisting as we know them now.
You can help with these efforts by supporting us and spreading the word about what we all need to do to ensure the survival of this majestic gift to us.
Thanks to Dr Martin Mulama, Chief Conservation Officer, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, for his input into this blog.