Project status
Savanna, Shrubland, Desert
Project collaborators
Mike Hoffman

Mike Hoffmann

Head of Wildlife Recovery

The Rhino Impact Investment Project was completed in 2021. The 'Rhino Bond' launched as the Wildlife Conservation Bond in March 2022.

  • Only 6,000
    black rhino survive in the wild today.
  • 96%
    decline in black rhino in the wild from 1970 to mid 1990s.
  • Why was the Rhino Impact Investment Project needed?

    In 1970, there were an estimated 65,000 black rhino in the wild. As poaching intensified and pressures on their habitat increased, their population underwent a precipitous decline, numbering around 2,500 individuals in the mid-1990s. Since then, their population has very slowly increased, with around 6,000 surviving today. They remain extremely vulnerable to extinction in the wild and are listed as a Critically Endangered species by IUCN. 

    The Rhino Impact Investment project was developed as a response to the dire predicament of the continent’s rhinoceros populations. It aimed to create an innovative source of finance to sustainably protect and recover black rhinos in particular, and perhaps serve as a blueprint to replicate this model to other rhino populations, similar species under threat and even protected and conserved areas.

    Wildlife Conservation Bond: The 'Rhino Bond'

    After many years of work, including a pilot phase in Tsavo West National Park in Kenya (once home to 8,000 black rhinos), preparing selected sites for investment readiness, and developing the finance mechanism, the resulting Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) was launched in March 2022.

    Also known as the 'Rhino Bond', this five-year, $150 million Sustainable Development Bond includes a potential performance payment from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which will contribute to protecting and increasing black rhino populations in two protected areas in South Africa, the Addo Elephant National Park and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.

    In the WCB, investors forego their bond coupon (i.e., their interest) payments, which are instead used to fund the conservation of priority rhino populations. At the conclusion of the five-year project, if the rhino population has grown to pre-defined rates that are independently verified by ZSL, the bondholders receive a conservation success payment, which is paid by the GEF. The result is the world’s first 'pay-for-results' financial instrument for species conservation.


    black rhino in grass closeup
    black rhino in grass walking

    Collaboration is key

    While ZSL led implementation of the RII project, it was funded by many critical donors, including Credit Suisse, the Global Environment Facility, Oak Foundation, Rufford Foundation, the UK Government through the IWT Challenge Fund, The Royal Foundation, and ZSL. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was the GEF Agency responsible for supporting the development, implementation and execution of Project activities.

    The project also received technical conservation, finance and legal implementation support from Implementation Partners including Conservation Alpha, Credit Suisse, DLA Piper, Fauna and Flora International, the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Proof once again that successful outcome in conservation is achieved through partnership.

    Project information

    Key Species

    • Black rhino (Diceros bicornis)


    • Mike Hoffmann, ZSL Head of Wildlife Recovery

    Partners and sponsors

    •    IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group
    •    Conservation Alpha
    •    Conservation Capital
    •    Credit Suisse
    •    DLA Piper
    •    Fauna & Flora International
    •    Global Environment Facility 
    •    IUCN Species Survival Commission
    •    Kenya Wildlife Service
    •    The Nature Conservancy 
    •    UBS
    •    UK Government through the IWT Challenge Fund
    •    United Nations Development Programme
    •    United for Wildlife
    •    WWF
    •    World Bank Group

    Further reading


    Urgent action to stop the devastation of critical species and habitats by helping people and wildlife live better together is the only way to save the natural world we love and depend upon. That’s where ZSL comes in, and where you can play your part.