Through committed and careful scientific research, human perseverance, determination, and a generous helping of luck, the species still exists today and hopefully will for many generations.
In 1952, Dr Ian Player spearheaded an initiative called Operation Rhino. He saw that the species was at dire risk of extinction, and indeed, in some areas of South Africa, it was already locally extinct. He and his teams on the ground ensured the survival of rhinos in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal. They relocated them back into reserves all over South Africa to expand their range and establish viable populations in other areas. Increasing their chances of survival, should some catastrophic event wipe out the species in any one place, and improved genetic diversity, further growing their species’ fitness.
From as little only 50 individuals left in the wild, Dr Ian Player and his team carefully bred and protected, relocated, and expanded their range until they numbered over 20 000. A remarkable achievement. The peak in numbers reached in about 2007, and then park officials all over the country started noticing a trend. There seemed to be a rising number of rhino poaching incidents. The rise was unexpected and exponential and reached the peak in murdered rhinos in 2015, with over 1300 rhinos killed every 7 hours.
The situation looked bleak, and indeed it was. Still, organisations mobilised resources and sought public support, and with the help of media and journalists, corruption was exposed and slowly, the crisis stemmed. There have been five consecutive years of lower poaching numbers, but even so, the journey is not over. There are currently 60% fewer rhinos in South Africa than in 2007, with the White rhino or Square-lipped rhino classed as Near Threatened and the Black rhino or Hook-lipped rhino critically endangered. Though the situation seems impossible, we can never give up or stop trying. We should never stop until the species are safe and secure.
I hadn’t seen a rhino with a horn in years. Careful removal of their horns (the reason for being poached for use in traditional medicines in many Asian countries) has meant that almost all rhinos in South Africa no longer have these defensive armaments. Seeing a dehorned rhino is so significantly normalised. I recently had the immense privilege to spend time on foot, with a magnificent Rhino bull, in his prime, whole, and healthy. That he snuck up on us at a waterhole was a surprise, and a moment I will not forget soon. It renewed my faith that what we do through exposure and education is necessary and that one day we may never again have to deprive these ancient creatures.
Ol Chorro Rhino Sanctuary | White Rhino Conservation
Today we visit the Ol Chorro Rhino Sanctuary in Northern Masai Mara, Kenya.
Over the past 20 years, the Ol Chorro Rhino Sanctuary has employed people from the local communities to help combat poverty and poaching. They developed schools and created jobs. Their mission is clear, to protect the White Rhino. Let us all do our part and conserve our Rhinos.
Video footage @Jamie Unwin.
About the Author:
Michael Anderson is an EcoTraining Instructor at Karongewe Game Reserve. Born in Zimbabwe, Mike grew up in a wilderness area close to the Hwange National Park. His love for nature and the environment began at a young age, forever pretending to be a Ranger, stalking through the bush.
In 2010, Mike decided to begin a Guiding Career, becoming a qualified Field Guide through EcoTraining and in 2012, he completed his Lead Trails qualification. He is an Advanced Trails Guide with a Savanna Regional Bird Guide qualification and Tracks and Sign Level 2. Mike recently completed his Professional Field Guide qualification. Mike has worked in 5* Lodges in the Sabi Sands and Timbavati Game reserves for five years and has various freelancing assignments with student groups around South Africa. His passions are birding, walking and guidance and mentoring young people.