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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : March 2002 : Kenya Restocks Rhinos into Meru Park As Conservationists Condemn South African Plan to Put Rhinos in the Firing Line
 

Kenya Restocks Rhinos into Meru Park As Conservationists Condemn South African Plan to Put Rhinos in the Firing Line

 


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 – www.ifaw.org) 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 park’s 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 Grevy’s zebras and will also provide for the translocation of more than 200 Burchell’s zebras to the park later in the year.

“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 conservation’s 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 ranches.

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 Africa’s 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 Africa’s 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.

“It’s 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 Africa’s 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 and cheetah.

“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,” said Bell.


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



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