Black rhinos are holding their own in Kenya with the number of calves born this year outweighing any losses to poaching in the three wildlife conservancies (Ol Pejeta, Borana and Sera) that are supported by Fauna & Flora International (FFI). Ol Pejeta Conservancy can be proud of six births this year, further boosting the largest black rhino population in East Africa. Excitingly, Borana Conservancy also recently experienced its seventh birth and Sera Wildlife Conservancy – which has the first community-owned rhino sanctuary in Kenya where black rhinos were reintroduced in 2015 – its first.

Continued growth of rhino populations in private and community conservancies is an important part of Kenya’s national black rhino conservation strategy for this Critically Endangered species. A key component of future conservation efforts and protection of rhinos at these sanctuaries is the support from local communities, garnered through engagement, awareness and employment programmes in each area.

This baby rhino was rescued after she got separated from her mother and was at risk from a herd of boisterous elephants approaching the bank for water. Happily she was reunited soon after this picture was taken. Credit: Wilson.

This baby rhino had to be reunited with her mother after becoming separated. Credit: Michael Dyer.

Nevertheless, rhinos are still under extreme threat from poachers due to high demand for their horn which is used in traditional Asian medicines and is increasingly used to demonstrate social status. As rhinos become rarer, the value of their horn only increases, encouraging international criminal syndicates to engage in the illegal wildlife trade. The threat of extinction is very real; one subspecies – the western black rhino – was officially declared extinct in 2010, with the primary cause identified as poaching, and the northern white rhino is on the brink.

However, all hope is not lost as the the recent boom in black rhino births in Kenya shows. This would not have been possible without the local rhino protection programmes enabled by FFI. Since 2007, FFI has been supporting the Ol Pejeta Rhino Programme through protection, monitoring and translocation of rhinos. Anti-poaching dogs (such as Diego and his team) are acting as a rhino’s best friend and helping to protect the population. A well-established community development programme meanwhile has also helped to reinforce rhino protection efforts by engaging with local people.

Adult rhino from Sera Conservancy.

Sera Wildlife Conservancy – has the first community-owned rhino sanctuary in Kenya where black rhinos were reintroduced in 2015. Credit: Ian Craig.

Building on success

Building on its successes in Kenya, FFI has recently helped Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia (SRT) to develop a five-year strategic plan to protect the country’s population of unique desert-adapted black rhinos in the Kunene and northern Erongo regions – the largest free-living population in Africa. This plan is devoted to strengthening protection of these rhinos in addition to the ongoing monitoring patrols and surveillance of this population, and improved deterrence of poaching through intelligence and law enforcement in partnership with government agencies, local community conservancies and support organisations, and tourism concessionaires.

You can support FFI’s rhino conservation work and make a donation to protect these key black rhino populations here.