From International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Monday, March 04, 2002
NAIROBI, KENYA Kenya begins restocking white rhinoceros
populations in its premier national park in Meru today as conservationists
slam a draft proposal by the South African government that would
see it trading in white rhinoceros products as early as 2003.
In Kenya, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW
is partnering with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to translocate
eight white rhinos from two private game ranches to Meru National
Park to restock wildlife species.
As part of the one-week exercise, six white rhinos from Solio Ranch
in Laikipia and two from Lewa Downs Ranch in Samburu will be translocated
to Meru National Park where all but one white rhino were wiped out
during the poaching era in the late 80s. In 1989, when five
rhinos were killed there by poachers, the last, lone rhino was relocated
to Lake Nakuru National Park were it could be protected, leaving
Meru National Park devoid of all rhino.
In recent years, Meru National Park has benefited from a massive
redevelopment project, with assistance from international donors
including IFAW. The parks infrastructure has been completely
rebuilt, security has become stellar, and the park has become one
of the most sought after tourist destinations in Kenya.
The translocation of these rhino will assist in rebuilding the
animal populations that once inhabited Meru National Park. IFAW
will provide on-site assistance and has contributed almost US$60,000
to the exercise. Part of the support was recently used to move 20
rare Grevys zebras and will also provide for the translocation
of more than 200 Burchells zebras to the park later in the
With the restocking of key species such as rhino, Meru National
Park is now being given a new lease on life after almost all its
wildlife was wiped out by poaching and disease, said IFAW
Regional Director for East Africa, Michael Wamithi.
White rhino are regarded as one of conservations greatest
success stories shot almost to extinction in the early part
of the last century. Kenya now has about 170 in total with about
25% of these in two protected areas while the majority are in private
In South Africa, less than 100 white rhinos remained in 1929. Since
then, careful conservation practices have increased the worldwide
populations to 11,000 animals, with 9,750 of them conserved in South
Africa 2,000 of these are in private ownership.
According to documents drafted by South Africas Department
of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa seeks approval
to establish a legal trade in white rhino products (excluding horn)
As rhinos are not poached to obtain these products there can be
no concern that legalising such trade will adversely affect South
Africas or other rhino populations.
IFAW is concerned about the subtleties expressed in this draft
proposal, whereby it is implied that this may be a first step towards
seeking permission to trade in rhino horn at a later date. As funding
for state conservation agencies dwindles, the government, and other
supporters of its stance, maintain that funds raised from the trade
in rhino parts and other rare and endangered species will be ploughed
back into conservation and protection -- a move that IFAW says would
be counter productive, as it would increase the threat to rhinos
by increasing the existing illegal market for rhino parts.
Its astonishing to us that, in the draft proposal,
South Africa makes reference to the sale of rhino horn at a later
date, a proposal which has been dismissed for many years for very
good reason, says the IFAW Southern Africa Director, Jason
Bell. By creating a legal market for products in endangered
species, one merely encourages an illegal market that trades in
products from poached animals, he added. The rhino is
a case in point.
The proposals, which serve as the precursor to South Africas
final submission to the meeting of the Convention of International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in November, have
also approved in principle a proposal for the sale of ivory stockpiles,
as well as increased hunting quotas for highly endangered leopard
The trades in ivory and rhino horn will have equally detrimental
effects on wild elephant and rhino populations in Africa and Asia.
History clearly shows that it is virtually impossible to control
trade in these products. As long as stockpiles exist and legal trade
in them is proposed, elephants and rhinos are in grave danger,
Note to Editors:
The white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) is the biggest land mammal
after elephant (but outweighed by hippo). It has a wide square mouth,
large ears, and pronounced hump. It is a grazer, whereas the black
rhino is a browser. In addition, white rhinos are also considered
more docile and gregarious than the black rhino which is considered
aggressive and thought to be more territorial