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SOS Rhino : In the News : New haven for black rhino

New haven for black rhino

  June 2, 2005
The Mercury

By Tony Carnie

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is giving a group of black rhino to a new reserve near uMkhuze as part of an expansion programme that will ensure the future of the species.

KwaZulu-Natal is "giving away" another R10 million worth of endangered black rhinos to the private sector.

The provincial nature conservation agency, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, says a second group of between 17 and 20 black rhinos will be released soon into the newly created Zululand Rhino Reserve, south-west of Mkhuze town.

The 17 000ha reserve is owned by a consortium of 12 landowners who agreed to drop their boundary fences to form a new breeding haven for an animal whose numbers have plummeted dramatically in the past few decades.

The latest decision follows a similar breeding-loan agreement with the Phinda/Munyawana game reserve last year which aims to expand the range of black rhino and secure the long-term future of the species.

Based on previous auction prices, the animals are worth about R500 000 each, according to the conservation group WWF-South Africa, which is providing financial assistance and expertise for the project.

Several black rhino have been sold to private buyers over the past decade, but none of these animals have gone to KZN - partly due to the lack of large enough private rhino conservation land.

As an incentive to create new breeding areas within KZN, founder population groups have been offered to approved reserves.

All the original adult animals will remain the property of KZN Wildlife, but 50% of the progeny will become privately owned. A delighted Clive Vivier, Chairman of the new Zululand Rhino Reserve, hailed the announcement as "another major coup for conservation".

"This is about much more than dropping a few fences," Vivier said.

"We are turning cattle, game and mealie farms into a new 'big five' conservation area which could eventually link up with the existing Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

"We have been talking since 1998 about creating a biosphere reserve - and it might never have happened without the key catalyst of black rhino."

Vivier, whose family established the Hluhluwe Hotel in 1960 and also owns the Leopard Mountain reserve, said the creation of the new reserve was a team effort which included Norwegians, as well as local land-owners Gippie Pretorius, Craig Young, Charl Senekal, Neelus Moll, Timmy Moodley, Dries van Coller, Henk Brink and Leon van Heerden.

"If you look to the north or the south of us, pristine bush has been taken up by monoculture and cattle farming," Vivier said.

"Our wilderness is disappearing. It's so wrong. And what we're doing with the help of this project is so right."

However, he did not exclude the possibility of controlled hunts for old rhino bulls in the future.

Black rhino, which used to be the most numerous rhino species in the world, became critically endangered following a catastrophic poaching wave in the 1970s and 1980s which wiped out 96% of Africa's wild black rhino population in just 20 years.

At the lowest point, there were just 2 500 black rhino throughout Africa, but the number has gradually increased to around 3 600.

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