Rhino conservation in East Africa
Illegal demand for rhino horn, resulting in poaching, continues to be the major immediate threat for all rhinos. In Africa, the black rhino is critically endangered, having suffered a catastrophic decline both in numbers and in the extent of their range.
The number of black rhino in Kenya fell from over 20,000 to just 350 within two decades due to the high level of poaching.
In response, the Kenyan government established the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which created a number of fenced sanctuaries to protect the rhino. The increased protection meant that poaching was kept down to less damaging levels, and the rhino population slowly began to rise.
The rhino, however, were not free-roaming and instead confined to the sanctuaries where local teams could monitor and relocate the herds when populations reached capacity.
ZSL's rhino work in Kenya
ZSL has been working with KWS to conserve black rhino since 1993, providing training and technical support on strategic planning, habitat assessments, translocation programmes, metapopulation management, wildlife health initiatives, wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching patrols.
With funding from the UK government's Darwin Initiative and other donors, we have been able to train dozens of officers and rangers and assist in some of the first translocations of rhino from the sanctuaries into free-ranging protected areas.
While the number of rhino in Kenya is increasing overall, some areas are still facing intense pressure. Of the 50 black rhinos that were released into Tsavo East National Park in the 1990s, only 11 survive today. ZSL continues to support KWS to protect the rhino in Tsavo East and to reach the desired 5% annual population growth rate.
ZSL is committed to improving the situation of black rhino in Kenya and we are working with KWS to implement Kenya's Conservation Strategy and Management Plan for the Black Rhinoceros, which aims to increase the number of rhino in Kenya to 1,000 by 2020.
We hope to help expand rhino areas through strengthening the free-ranging reintroduction programme and supporting community conservancies as well as by supporting the creation of an East Africa Rhino Management Group. Such a group will be instrumental in developing a regional strategy for rhino conservation.