Friday, July 18, 2003--Not only is the
eastern black rhino highly endangered, it is also localized in small
populations of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Located primarily in
fenced sanctuaries, these small populations hold the future of the
species. Sanctuaries aim to have rhinos reproduce safely away from
poachers, to increase and ultimately to repopulate other areas.
AWF Chief Scientist, Dr. Philip Muruthi,
just returned from a two-day visit to Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in
Tsavo, Kenya. "The AWF-supported sanctuary has been a success"
reports Muruthi. A night census was just concluded and it has revealed
that there are now 57 black rhinos at Ngulia, up from 53 individuals
in 2001. An increase in births and no reported poaching incidents
have allowed the Ngulia rhino population to grow. "We found
that the security situation is still at high alert, following poaching
in the adjacent Tsavo East National Park" says Muruthi.
Muruthi also reported that Tsavo East
National Park still offers much hope for rhino conservation. Allaying
fears that poaching had eliminated the population completely, 30
black rhinos have been confirmed to be roaming freely in the unfenced
park. There was an estimated 49 black rhinos in Tsavo East National
Park in 2001, so this is a setback for the "free-release"
program. But the rhino population is still reproducing with more
than two babies sighted in the last two months.
With close to 500 individual animals,
Kenya's eastern black rhino (Diceros michaeli) is still growing.
The staff at Ngulia conveyed their appreciation of AWF's continued
support and acknowledged that the program continues to be a success
thanks to the support of the government and other stakeholders such
as the African Wildlife Foundation.
Dr. Muruthi greeted the increase in
Ngulia's black rhino numbers with optimism, but cautioned that "the
threats to rhinos are still profound, and we must not relax our
efforts to save them. The staff at Ngulia continues to have urgent
needs which can be met with the support of organizations like AWF."
For more information, contact:
African Wildlife Foundation