In a groundbreaking conservation effort, Kenya will carry out one of the largest translocations of black rhinos in more than two decades due to an unexpected surplus of the animals in some conservation areas.
Over the next two weeks, Kenya Wildlife Service officials and partners will sedate 21 black rhinos; load them onto trucks and transported for hundreds of kilometers to Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County to ease overcrowding in existing habitats.
Rhinos will be making a comeback to Loisaba Conservancy after 50 years. Tragically, the conservancy lost its last population of rhinos to poaching and has now set aside half of its 57,000 acres to host the animals.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be part of the reintroduction of rhinos to a landscape where they’ve been absent for 50 years,” Loisaba Conservancy chief executive Tom Silvester said.
“It means so much to us at Loisaba to see this iconic species come home again and it is a mark of Kenya’s conservation success.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the black rhino as critically endangered. From 1960 to the 1990s, the population of black rhinos declined by a staggering 97.6 percent, primarily due to poaching.
Kenya’s black rhino numbers have quadrupled from 240 in 1984 to 966 today, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
The remarkable recovery is as a result of the government enforcing effective security measures to combat poaching and punishing offenders.
Black rhinos are solitary animals, and without enough room to disperse, they cannot be encouraged to breed.
The translocation project aims to reestablish a thriving population of both female and male eastern black rhinos at Loisaba Conservancy. It also looks to ensure the protection and preservation of the animals.
In 1993, there were only an estimated 2,300 black rhinos remaining in the wild. However, thanks to conservation efforts in Kenya and southern Africa, the population has rebounded to over 6,000 as of 2022.
Over the past decade, there has been an average upward trend of a 17 percent increase in population size. Three subspecies of black rhinos namely; Southern Central black rhino, Eastern black rhino, South Western black rhino have witnessed improvements in their numbers, with the eastern black rhino experiencing the largest population increases, averaging between 30-40 percent.
The Western (African) black rhino was however declared extinct in 2011.
According to wildlife conservationists, the translocation that began on Tuesday last week at the Nairobi National Park is not only a demonstration of Kenya's commitment to wildlife protection, but also an essential measure to alleviate congestion in the park.
The Nairobi National Park has successfully nurtured a thriving population of black rhinos through strict protection measures.
Kenya now hosts the third largest rhino population in Africa after South Africa and Namibia.
Studies indicate that in the face of threats such as poaching, climate change, disease and loss of habitat, Kenya needs a stable number of 2,000 eastern black rhinos for the species to survive in the country.