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Closer look: Protecting Borana’s black rhinos

Credit: Rob Brett/FFI
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Written by: Olivia Bailey
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Across their range, African rhinos are facing severe pressure from poaching, driven by the high demand for their horn in Asian countries – particularly Vietnam. Rhino horn is used in traditional medicines and is increasingly used as a status symbol to display a person’s success and wealth.

As rhinos become rarer, the demand and price for horn only increases – this in turn makes poachers more willing to take dangerous risks to obtain horn due to the large rewards involved. The market price of rhino horn is now higher than the price of gold, with reports suggesting it is worth US$50,000 to US$65,000 per kg in Vietnam.

Black rhinos in particular have seen a dramatic fall in numbers as a result of poaching, from around 100,000 in the 1960s to just over 5,000 today, putting them in IUCN’s Critically Endangered category.

Black rhino. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI

Today, black rhinos are Critically Endangered. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI.

Protecting rhinos – Borana and beyond

Despite this bleak picture, there is cause for optimism: in areas where concerted efforts are being made to protect them, black rhino populations have risen steadily. For more than 10 years, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and its community conservancies, to help local people sustainably manage their local environment and wildlife.

In 2013 FFI began working with one of the NRT conservancies – Borana – to detect, reduce and eliminate poaching threats to its rhino population. With the support of SOS – Save Our Species, an initiative managed by IUCN, FFI has been able to extend this work to protect and monitor rhinos at Borana Conservancy by providing anti-poaching specialist training for rangers.

Communication within and around the conservancy has also been improved by providing digital VHF radio equipment such as digital radios and digital repeaters, and FFI are providing road maintenance equipment to make it quicker and more efficient to monitor rhinos and respond to poaching threats.

In areas where black rhinos are being protected populations are rising. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI.

In areas where black rhinos are being protected populations are rising. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI.

The long term

Evidence has shown that, if well protected and managed, black rhino populations can increase at a rate of 5-10% per year.

FFI’s goal is to meet this potential and significantly increase the population of black rhinos at Borana Conservancy to over 100 rhinos by eliminating rhino poaching losses, growing the black rhino population by more than 5% per year and building partnerships with local communities based on incentives for supporting rhino protection.

The efforts made in Borana and in neighboring conservancies such as Lewa could play a major role in securing the black rhino’s future in Kenya and East Africa more widely. Increasing the Borana rhino population will contribute to the long-term goal of increasing the national population of black rhinos in Kenya to 2,000 rhinos – a major milestone on the road to a secure future for this species.

The Borana rhino project is supported by our donor: SOS – Save Our Species (a joint initiative of IUCN, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank).

Written by
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Olivia Bailey

Olivia Bailey is Fauna & Flora International’s Communications Assistant. With a BSc in Zoology, Olivia is passionate about connecting people with nature to create a sustainable future.

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