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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : June 2002 : African Rhinos Edge Back from the Brink

African Rhinos Edge Back from the Brink


GLAND, Switzerland
June 12, 2002 (ENS)

Populations of African rhinos are growing, according to a report by a group of scientists who specialize in the monitoring of rhinocerus numbers, IUCN-The World Conservation Union announced Tuesday.

The African Rhino Specialist Group of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission says the updated numbers show the total populations in all African rhino range states increased from previous estimates of 13,109 rhinos in 1999 to a new total estimate of 14,770 in 2001.

After demand for the rhino horn trade cut numbers from around 65,000 in 1970, both African species of rhinoceros - the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) - are recovering due to intensive conservation efforts in several African countries, the scientists said.

Black rhino numbers were up to 3,100 in 2001 from an estimated 2,704 in 1999. White rhino populations were estimated at 11,670 in 2001 up from 10,405 in 1999.

"The Specialist Group is delighted that the increased level of cooperation among governments, the private sector, communities and conservation organizations is bearing fruit," said the group's chairman Dr. Martin Brooks.

Rhino populations are being re-established in former rhino ranges in Uganda, Zambia and Botswana. All three countries are now implementing rhino re-introduction plans with government and private sector support.

But, cautioning against complacency, Dr. Brooks said much greater increases in numbers of all four sub-species of black rhinos are needed for long term viability of the species.

Rhino numbers in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are critically low and those populations remain under serious threat, the specialist group reports.

Strategies to enhance rhino conservation were discussed at a recent meeting of the African Rhino Specialist Group held in Malilangwe, Zimbabwe. The declining economic situation in Zimbabwe, the third largest rhino range state, creates a significant increase in the risk of rhino poaching, the group says.

At the meeting, Zimbabwe's Minister of the Environment and Tourism Francis Nhema, highlighted the importance of cooperation between state management authorities, the private sector, and community involvement.

The specialist group has endorsed an innovative business arrangement for local Zimbabwean communities to benefit from the management of white rhino.

Declining budgets of conservation agencies in most range states are of concern, the scientists warn.



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