By Hannah Campbell
World Rhino Day is celebrated annually on September 22nd and celebrates the five rhino species: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan.
The eastern black rhino is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, with fewer than 5,000 remaining worldwide. In Kenya, the black rhino population dropped from an estimated 20,000 in 1970, to fewer than 400 individuals in the space of 20 years, a decline of 98%. This was largely due to poaching as a result of challenges to wildlife management.
Progress is being made…
Due to outstanding conservation efforts across the country, the eastern black rhino population has grown to around 750, with Kenya remaining the stronghold of the subspecies.
This excellent progress in the reduction of poaching and implementation of breeding programmes has meant that the current sanctuaries are fast approaching the ecological carrying capacity for the population, and space is needed to maintain the desired grown rate of at least 5% per year.
2,000 individuals are recognised as being the minimum number for a metapopulation of the black rhino necessary to ensure the long term survival of this species in Kenya. The sooner this target can be achieved, the greater the reduction in loss of overall genetic diversity.
If the desired population growth of 5% per year is achieved and maintained, Kenya could reach this goal of 2,000 rhinos in 20 years. The main limiting factor is providing the space needed for this population growth.
… but space is needed to maintain the desired population growth.
Loisaba has recently sent an application to KWS requesting permission to become a Rhino Sanctuary.
Black rhinos were last seen on the property in the early 70’s, and it is an aim to make Loisaba a permanent home for rhinos again. Laikipia is already a stronghold for the eastern black rhino, with proven success in the similar environments to Loisaba such as Ol Jogi, Ol Pejeta and Lewa, which are prime black rhino habitat. The national black rhino action plan recognises the need to identify areas for population expansion to achieve the vision of attaining a metapopulation of 2,000 rhinos. Establishing a new rhino sanctuary in Loisaba conservancy will help achieve this vision, and contribute meaningfully to the Biological Management of the black rhino (D.b. michaeli) as Kenya strives to achieve the goal of a minimum population of 830 black rhinos by the end of 2021.
The reintroduction of rhinos to Loisaba not only provides habitat in order to maintain a population growth rate, but also creates an opportunity to widen the gene pool by creating a new breeding population with individuals from several different sanctuaries that have successfully reached carrying capacity.
In order to be ‘rhino ready’, we are aiming to raise funding for the extra costs associated with providing infrastructure and monitoring for rhinos. If you would like to hear more about our plan or find out how you can help us bring rhinos home to Loisaba, please contact Hannah on [email protected] or visit www.loisaba.com/donate.