While rhino populations have undoubtedly suffered major losses, there has also been incredible commitment shown to conserve one of the world’s most iconic species.
The 22nd of September has become a global day to celebrate the rhino as well as create continued awareness of the horrific impact poaching is having on this beautiful animal. This year’s theme for World Rhino Day is “Keep the Five Alive” in reference to the five species of rhino found in Africa and Asia, namely the black rhino, white rhino, greater one-horned rhino, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
According to Save the Rhino, large-scale rhino poaching began on the African continent in Zimbabwe in the 2000s. Thereafter, it spread to South Africa, which saw significant increases in poaching from 2009 to 2014, and to Kenya in 2013 where 59 rhinos were poached. From then on, all three countries saw a consistent increase in rhino poaching and consequently devastating impacts on the health of their rhino populations.
There have, however, also been enormous successes in the fight against rhino poaching in Africa. Here are just three of several African countries that continue to actively stop rhino poaching in their national parks and game reserves:
© Claire Birtwhistle / Garonga
As the country with the largest rhino population in the world, South Africa has worked hard to protect these magnificent animals. Despite being the country worst hit by rhino poaching, official statistics show that rhino deaths as a result of poaching in South Africa have been gradually decreasing since 2014. At the end of last year, 1028 rhinos had been poached, which was 187 less than three years prior.
Wildlife conservation, and in particular anti-poaching, efforts have been key in combatting rhino poaching in South Africa. Anti-poaching operations are led by task teams that work together with the South African Police Services and South African National Defence Force, and new technological interventions continue to play a role in deterring poaching in South Africa. The collaboration between government departments, law enforcement agencies, civil society organisations and local communities has led to the arrests of 502 alleged poachers and 16 alleged traffickers in 2017.
© Oliver Funk / Garonga
The rhino is a beloved icon of the South African bushveld and visitors can still encounter them in various game reserves across the country. For those wanting to stay near to parks with rhino, Garonga Safari Camp is well-situated within the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve and near to Kruger National Park. Garonga is part of the Greater Makalali/Pidwa Private Nature Reserve Initiative that works with the local farming community towards the protection of rhinos within the Reserve. This is done through anti-poaching task teams patrolling the reserve constantly throughout the day and night. To date, the teams have been successful in arresting poachers and gradually preventing poaching.
© Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camps
When Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, was euthanised in Kenya in March 2018 due to an age-related illness, this white rhino subspecies became functionally extinct. Kenya is now home to the remaining two non-breeding northern white female rhinos in the world; once they die, the southern white rhino will be left without its northern counterpart.
Last year, nine rhinos in Kenya were killed from its already dwindling population of less than 1000. With Kenya’s rhinos continuously under attack by poaching, the country announced in May 2018 that a new law will see poachers facing the death penalty if found guilty. On the ground, heavily armed rangers protect rhinos around the clock, often sacrificing their own lives during combat with poachers in order to safeguard these precious animals.
© Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camps
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is the only protected area in Kenya with indigenous black rhino roaming whilst heavily protected in their natural habitat. Guests at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camps will not only have the potential to see rhinos, they will also learn about the camp’s responsible tourism and conservation efforts in the Olderkesi Wildlife Conservancy, a major wildlife corridor in the Maasai Mara.
© Amalinda Safari Collection
Last year, Zimbabwe’s rhino population suffered a loss of 36, which were reportedly killed by poachers. Fortunately, the number of rhinos being poached in Zimbabwe has decreased since its high figure of 50 killed in 2015. Once the starting point for poaching in Africa, various anti-poaching efforts are turning the tide against these unnecessary deaths of rhinos.
As with most countries suffering with the major loss of rhinos to poaching, canine units are used to track poachers as well as sniff out rhino horn being taken out of parks and reserves. Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds and Labradors are trained for this task to provide additional security to the rhinos. Most recently, Zimbabwe was employed an anti-poaching unit consisting only of women in the lower Zambezi valley, which has been particularly hard hit by poachers.
© Kate / Flickr
Visitors to Zimbabwe that are interested in rhino tracking can stay at Amalinda Lodge in Matopos or Matobo National Park, which is home to both black and white rhino. Tracking take place in a safari vehicle or by foot, and are led by guides highly skilled and educated in the wide botanical and animal diversity of the park.
South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe are just some of the countries in Africa that are making important strides in the fight against rhino poaching. If you’re inspired to visit one or more of these fantastic safari destinations, get in touch with us to discuss the perfect travel itinerary for you.