African Parks will reproduce 2,000 rhinos in a controversial breeding program

African Parks will reproduce 2,000 rhinos in a controversial breeding program

  • African Parks, which manages national parks in several countries across the continent, has announced it has bought Platinum Rhino, John Hume’s controversial rhino breeding project.
  • The conservation organization plans to resurrect all 2,000 southern white rhinos in Hume’s project, following a framework to be drawn up by independent experts.
  • The biggest challenge African Parks will face is finding safe places to relocate 300 rhinos every year, as poaching for their horns shows little sign of abating.

On September 4, African Parks, an international non-profit organization, announced that it had purchased Platinum Rhino, John Hume’s controversial rhino breeding campaign, and intended to rehabilitate the more than 2,000 southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) that it brought with it. . The news was welcomed around the world by those Mongabay spoke to in the conservation sector in South Africa, but the main question now is how African Parks will find safe and secure areas for rhinos.

“The scale of this action is huge, and therefore terrifying,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO and founder of African Parks. “However, it is one of the world’s most exciting and innovative conservation opportunities – one of the largest continent-wide efforts to take place for any species.”

Hume, who made his fortune developing resorts, estimates he has spent $150 million over the past 30 years intensively breeding rhinos, money he hoped to recoup through the rhino horn trade. With no sign of an international ban on raising rhino horns, Hume was forced to sell his business.

After the auction of Hume’s work in April of this year failed to attract a single bid, African Parks was called by concerned people in the conservation community to try to find a solution and to be assisted by the South African government in conducting due diligence, says Fearnhead. The exact amount cannot be disclosed due to non-disclosure agreements, but he says the purchase price, which was paid for with donor funding, was significantly less than Hume’s $10 million retainer.

“For me, John Hume’s project was always controversial because those rhinos were farmed. It was unfair to them, it was unfair,” says Grant Fowlds, a South African conservationist and author of the book. Saving the Last Horns. “I think the African Parks takeover is a very good thing.”

Hume’s approach focused primarily on increasing breeding numbers and breeding camps and intensive management which have undoubtedly been successful in breeding rhinos but have divided opinion in conservation circles. African Parks has made it clear that this intensive approach will stop, and will now allow the herd to breed naturally. To account for this natural increase in the planned 10-year land restoration project, Fearnhead estimates that 3,000 rhinos will be relocated to the wild.

A rhinoceros crate is lifted by crane onto a truck during a 2021 relocation run by African Parks. Image by Gael Vande Weghe / African Parks.
White rhinos have been relocated to African Parks in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park in 2021. Image by Gael Vande Weghe / African Parks.

“This is a project of incredible size and complexity, and many of us have heard that [African Parks] they are the only ones who can really do it right,” said Elise Serfontein, founding director of Stop Rhino Poaching, a South African NGO.

African Parks plans to establish a recovery framework using independent rhino experts who will look at things like what measures are needed in the area to find the animals, what kind of feasibility studies need to be done, what security will be needed in the area and what follow-up. to the eye it will look like. Fearnhead says he hopes the first rhinos will be placed by the end of this year or early 2024, with an average of 300 rhinos per year to be relocated over the next decade.

However, the main challenge to rhino conservation in the last 10 years has not been the lack of rhinos, but the lack of wild places safe from poachers where they can live – a challenge that African Parks must face now.

“We need to understand that rhinos, even in the most protected areas, are still at risk,” said Serfontein. “Sadly, it’s not about keeping the detected poaching rate to zero, it’s about dealing with the poaching problem as soon as it’s detected to keep losses to a minimum.”

African Parks has extensive experience working with governments and communities across Africa to transform struggling country parks, including successfully strengthening anti-poaching efforts in parks such as Akagera, Rwanda, using the latest technology and canine units. They have also conducted mass migrations, which recently included moving 500 elephants across Malawi.

“Ensuring protected areas for these animals is key to ensuring the success of this project,” says Fearnhead. “Although there are always risks and challenges involved in the movement of animals, African Parks believes that the risk in terms of not eliminating 2,000 rhinos outweighs the risks associated with relocation.”

While some rhinos will go to parks managed by African Parks, the organization is also open to applications from other parks and reserves to be evaluated under the framework once developed. This guide will include post-release checks to ensure the rhinos are adapting to life in the wild.

Fearnhead says: “The responsibility and scale of what we do is difficult, but we are sure to have hope.” “We have years of hard work ahead of us, including maintaining a high level of protection in the sanctuary, resettling people in the coming years, and addressing known and unknown challenges, while continuing our core mission of creating safe wilderness areas across Africa.”

The world’s largest private rhino herd has no buyer – or much of a future

Banner image: Orphanage manager Claudia Andrione with the older rhinoceros orphans at Platinum Rhino. Image by Jim Tan of Mongabay.

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Animals, Conservation, Conservation Solutions, Endangered, Endangered Species, Environment, Environmental Crime, Environmental Law, Extinction, Inclusion, Hunting, Poaching, Mammals, Overhunting, Poaching, Protected Areas, Rhinos, Saving Animals From Extinction , White Rhino, Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Rangers, Wildlife Trade

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