Protecting Kenya’s Flagship species

Black RhinoProtecting Kenya’s Flagship species

Kenya is renowned for its wildlife and diverse ecosystems protecting many endemic and threatened species. It has a number of protected areas covering more than 8% of its land area which has helped develop the growing tourism industry. Wildlife viewing drives Kenya’s tourism, vital for its economy and major source of employment.

ZSL is supporting The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in its mission to conserve, protect and manage Kenya’s biodiversity. KWS is the national wildlife agency responsible for the conservation and management of Kenya’s wildlife and stewardship of its national parks and reserves. 

ZSL and KWS have worked closely together for over 20 years. ZSL has provided technical support and training for a number of flagship KWS programmes. Since 1989, ZSL has established, advised, built capacity for and supported wildlife and livestock health programmes, patrol-based and camera trap monitoring, intensive protection zones, and strategic planning for protected areas and critically endangered species, including the black rhino, forest elephant and hirola.

Conserving the Black Rhino in Kenya

The Critically Endangered black rhinoceros is one of the world’s most endangered mammals, due to rampant poaching. Kenya has significant numbers of these animals, making it central to the global conservation effort. Rhinos, like other large charismatic herbivores, require large areas to support populations. As a result, they act as ‘umbrella species,’ because the successful conservation and protection of rhinos within an area benefits the many other smaller species there.

Between 1970 and 1990, the number of black rhino in Kenya fell from over 20,000 to just 350, due to the high level of poaching. In response, ZSL, KWS and partners have invested heavily in the conservation of this natural treasure since 1993. The focus has been moving rhinos from high-risk areas into secure confined sanctuaries. The increased protection in sanctuaries minimised poaching levels, allowing the population to begin rising slowly. The rhinos’ breeding potential could also be maximised by relocating animals when the maximum population was reached in a particular area.

In Africa, the black rhino is critically endangered, having suffered a catastrophic decline, both in numbers and in the extent of their range. Poaching for the illegal demand for rhino horn continues to be the major immediate threat for all rhinos and an upsurge in poaching over the past few years has put increased pressure on survival of the species.

Through the support of the Royal Foundation and Google Global Impact Awards, ZSL is working with KWS to find innovative ways to fight illegal poaching including Instant Wild and SMART. Through the Newman’s Own Foundation ZSL is supporting the development of a new rhino sanctuary in Tsavo East National Park, while continuing to support KWS efforts in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary and Intensive Protection Zone in Tsavo West National Park.

ZSL are working in Tsavo to test a new financing mechanism, the Rhino Impact Investment project, which will look to raise significant funding for rhino conservation AND help to support and secure rhino populations in key priority areas.