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Printable versionAfrican Rhino Numbers Increase

June 11, 2002

IUCN-The World Conservation Union
Gland, Switzerland

The total populations of the two African species of rhinoceros, the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the white rhino
(Ceratotherium simum)
continue to increase, according to new estimates announced today by the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) of IUCN's Species Survival Commission.

After suffering a severe reduction from around 65,000 in 1970, intensive conservation efforts in several African countries have helped the black rhino to increase from an estimated 2,704 in 1999 to a new total of 3,100 in 2001. Similarly, the estimated total population of the white rhino has risen from 10,405 in 1999, to about 11,670 in 2001. Overall, the updated numbers show that the total populations in all African rhino range states increased from previous estimates of 13,109 rhinos in 1999 to a new total estimate of 14,770 in 2001.

However, despite the promising news of population increases,
there is no room for complacency. Much greater increases in numbers of black rhinos (for all four subspecies) are needed to ensure long-term viability. Rhino numbers in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are critically low and those populations remain under serious threat. In Zimbabwe, the third largest range state, the declining economic situation creates a significant increase in the risk of rhino poaching. Declining budgets of conservation agencies in most range states are an increasing concern.

Strategies to further enhance the conservation of rhinos were discussed at a recent meeting of the African Rhino Specialist Group held in Malilangwe, Zimbabwe. In addition to providing an African rhino status update, the meeting participants also discussed a number of encouraging reports regarding reestablishing rhino populations in former rhino ranges in Uganda, Zambia and Botswana. All three countries are currently implementing rhino reintroduction plans, all of which involve both government and private sector support - seen as critical for success.

"The Specialist Group is delighted that the increased level of
cooperation among governments, the private sector, communities and conservation organizations is bearing fruit," said Dr Martin Brooks, Chair of the AfRSG.

Reasons for the continuing increase in numbers include improved biological management (monitoring and translocating animals in populations for maximum growth) and strong regional management collaboration and cooperation. In particular, the recently established Southern African Development Community Rhino Program provides guidance and support for sharing expertise and resources for rhino conservation in southern Africa. This regional cooperation is essential to assist with the establishment of effective anti-poaching efforts and conservation strategies. In addition, the active participation of the private sector has been an important element of rhino conservation in Africa. At the opening session of the meeting, Zimbabwe's Minister of the Environment and Tourism, the Hon. Francis Nhema, highlighted the importance of cooperation between state management authorities, the private sector, and community involvement.

The meeting participants emphasized the importance of developing greater community involvement in rhino conservation in Africa. This will be particularly important in the current Zimbabwe situation, where the AfRSG has endorsed an innovative business arrangement for local communities to benefit from the management of white rhino.

IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group Chair:
Dr. Martin Brooks; Tel:
++27 (33) 845-1471;
Fax: ++27 (33) 845-1498;
Email: mbrooks@kznncs.org.za


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