White Rhino rewilding project in Africa

Two thousand White Rhinos will be released into wild reserves, due a conservation project organized by African Parks. 

African Parks, a conversation group that co-manages protected areas in several African countries, acquired a large captive herd of the Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) from a private estate in South Africa. This represents about 15% of the total population of the species, according to the New Scientist magazine (7 September 2023). 

The herd mainly consists of wild-caught rhinos, and rhinos born in captivity.

Rewilding, or rehoming, them will be ‘one of the largest continent-wide rewilding endeavours to occur for any species,’ said Peter Fearnhead, chief executive of African Parks. He said that when rewilded, the Southern White Rhinos will ‘contribute to ecosystems by providing nutrient cycling, storing carbon, and increasing tourism revenue for local people.’

Private collections of animals, such as the rhinoceros, help to protect them from poachers who kill them to sell their fur, skin, horns, and other parts. In 2021, South Africa had 12,968 White Rhinos, more than 80% of the African continent’s total, and just under 7,000 of them were on private land. However, looking after them is expensive, particularly the cost of security to keep poachers away. 

The hope, in rewilding the 2,000 Southern White Rhinos, is that the captive-born rhinos will learn from the wild-caught rhinos when they are released into an appropriate habitat. Peter Fearnhead said that his team expects to move 300 rhinos each year to parks across Africa where there is suitable protection and sufficient grazing areas to establish new populations or to supplement existing populations of rhinos.

In June 2023, the African Parks team moved 16 Southern White Rhinos from a different private game reserve in South Africa to the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which used to have a population of the Northern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni). Poachers killed all of the Northern White Rhinos in Garamba by 2006. Only two female Northern White Rhinos are alive – in the whole world – and they live in Kenya. So, now the Garamba National Park, with strengthened security and stricter government animal protection laws, will take in the Southern White Rhinos.

Peter Fearnhead said that the Garamba National Park is capable of supporting many more white rhinos, and is therefore likely to receive part of the 2,000 Southern White Rhino herd in the future. 

The Southern White Rhinoceros is a large mammal in the Rhinocerotidae family of square-lipped rhinos. It has a wide, straight mouth. 

Its wide mouth can eat grass, especially short grass. It is a grazer, so it does not eat leaves from bushes and trees. It only eats grass. It prefers to live in the dry areas of southern Africa, in countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda.

Location of photographs (White Rhinoceros): Kenya.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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