By ED STODDARD
The Gazette (Montreal)
January 8, 2000
MOTSETSE GAME RESERVE, South Africa - Africa's southern white rhinoceros
is one of the 20th century's great comeback kids.
And that, some conservationists say, is at least partly because
ecotourism creates more jobs than agriculture and gives communities
a vested interest in protecting endangered animals.
In recent years cattle farmers have turned ranges over to game,
bringing wild animals back to areas where they had not been seen
in decades. At this former farm, two newly introduced bull rhinos
sniff around the perimeter of the fence of their new home. From
the top of a hill, one can see the rhinos in one direction and in
the other, the Johannesburg skyline shimmered in the distance.
''We have three bulls now and a female and a calf coming soon,''
Motsetse's warden Neville Hawkey said proudly. In the 1920s there
were between just 50 and 100 in southern Africa, virtually all in
the Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa.
Now, thanks to South Africa's intense conservation efforts, there
are well over 8,000 southern white rhinos and the prospects for
survival well into the 21st century look good.
''The southern white rhino is one of the most phenomenal conservation
success stories in all of Africa, if not the world,'' said conservationist
and author Clive Walker.
As Europeans moved into the interior from the Cape in the 17th
to 19th centuries, they found rhino to be an easy supply of meat.
Alarmed at the situation, conservationists made a concerted effort
in the early 20th century to save the animal at the neighbouring
Umfolozi and Hluhluwe parks, which had been declared game reserves
Umfolozi and Hluhluwe became the animals' premier breeding ground
and virtually every southern white rhino in the world today is descended
from those reserves.