PRESS RELEASE: Rhino Return to Samburu

Critically endangered black rhino reintroduced to Samburu ranges 25 years since the last individual was poached in the area

Today, Monday (May 18, 2015) the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have embarked on a relocation programme in a bid to expand black rhino habitat in the country, and boost populations of the iconic species. 

At least 20 preselected rhinos will be moved from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks to a sanctuary within the community owned and operated Sera Community Conservancy.

Two rhino have already been successfully moved and released to their new home.

The first black rhino, a female, is loaded into the translocation box

The first black rhino, a female, is loaded into the translocation box

This will be the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signaling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts. This pioneering move demonstrates the Government of Kenya’s confidence in the local community, and materialises the promise to support community-based conservation initiatives as provided for by the new Wildlife Act, 2013.

It is expected that the presence of black rhino in Samburu County will be a significant boost to tourism in the area whilst providing new job opportunities for local communities. Parts of the Sanctuary will also be set aside for dry season grazing for local herders, and the community look forward to increased overall security in the area.

The candidates earmarked for translocation range from six and a half years to 20 years old. Candidates are meant to reflect natural demographics and encourage natural breeding conditions. All animals will be fitted with satellite-based transmitters for close monitoring. The community rangers have been trained by Lewa and KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, bush craft and effective patrolling – and will have the back up of the Lewa, NRT and KWS Anti-Poaching Units.

NRT’s specialised anti-poaching unit, known as 9-1

NRT’s specialised anti-poaching unit, known as 9-1

According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature, populations of the Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting.

However, conservation efforts have managed to stabilise and increase numbers in most of the black rhino’s former ranges since then. Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimate of 640. It is projected to rise significantly in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations. It is hoped that the new rhino sanctuary will benefit Kenya’s black rhino population.

20 black rhino will be moved like this over a 2 week period

20 black rhino will be moved like this over a 2 week period

Sera Community Conservancy, established in 2001, is a member of NRT umbrella. It is governed by a council of elders, an elected board of trustees, a management team and the residing communities which include the Samburu, Rendille and Borana.

This translocation is jointly supported by The Lundin Foundation,The US Fish and Wildlife Service (Fauna and Flora International), Zurich Zoo, San Diego Zoo, The Tusk Trust, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis AAZK, Samburu County Government, USAID, The Nature Conservancy, and several private philanthropists.

Photo: Digital Crossing. A rhino leaves the transport crate into his new home at Sera Rhino Sanctuary

Photo: Digital Crossing. A rhino leaves the transport crate into his new home at Sera Rhino Sanctuary

More about KWS and Lewa:

KWS is a State Corporation established by the Act of Parliament, CAP 376, (now repealed by Wildlife Act, 2013) with a mandate to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya. It also has a sole jurisdiction over 27 both terrestrial and marine National Parks and oversight role in the management of 28 national reserves and private sanctuaries. For more information, visit www.kws.go.ke. 

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is an award-winning catalyst and model for community conservation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features on the IUCN Green List of successful protected areas. Lewa is the heart of wildlife conservation, sustainable development and responsible tourism in northern Kenya and its successful working model has provided the framework on which many conservation organisations in the region are based.