Rhino records reveal successes and setbacks

Rhino conservation in Kenya’s Borana Conservancy continues apace, with the conservancy announcing two black rhino births in 2015 and more to be expected in 2016.

Borana is one of a network of Community Conservancies, established through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) to help people in the area manage their wildlife and natural environment sustainably.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been supporting NRT since its inception more than 10 years ago, and in 2013 began working with Borana to tackle poaching threats to the conservancy’s black rhinos, which were introduced that same year.

In 2015, recognising the ever-escalating poaching threat, FFI and Borana took steps to bolster the conservancy’s ranger team through training, additional equipment and infrastructure improvement.

Ranger training at Borana. Credit: Borana conservancy.

Ranger training at Borana. Credit: Borana conservancy.

Thanks to help from SOS – Save Our Species (a joint initiative of IUCN, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank which provided crucial funding for the work), Borana now enjoys a fully-working operations room with the entire conservancy now covered by a digital radio network that allows scouts and rangers to easily communicate with each other and with the central operations room.

The rangers have also been given a tactical refresher course, enabling them to operate more safely and effectively, and – having received training from Kenya Police Service on crime scene processing – they are now in a better position to help catch and prosecute poachers if and when the worst happens.

Grand ambitions, great challenges

Black rhinos are Critically Endangered, with only around 5,000 remaining in the wild. Poaching is currently the biggest threat to this species which is targeted for its horn, and across their range intensive protection is needed to keep these animals safe.

The good news is that, in places where they are afforded adequate protection and suitable habitat, rhino numbers are increasing. One such place is Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Ranger using digital handheld radio. Credit: Borana Conservancy.

Ranger using digital handheld radio. Credit: Borana Conservancy.

Located around 50 km from Borana, Ol Pejeta is now home to East Africa’s largest black rhino population with over 100 individuals living at the conservancy – a five-fold increase in just two decades.

The hope is now that Borana’s rhinos can make a similar recovery.

With daily monitoring of its rhinos, which are assessed for health and behaviours such as mating, it is clear that these animals are in good hands. But despite this, great challenges still remain. In July 2015, a five year old male was poached at Borana, highlighting the ever present threat and the ongoing need to support the conservancy’s rangers in their essential work.