Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Zambian rhinos making a long slow recovery from extermination

12,000 rhinos massacred in 1970s & 1980s
September 2013. In the 1970s Zambia had Africa's 3rd largest black rhino population estimated at 12,000. Approximately 4,000 lived in the Luangwa Valley and about 2,000 of those were found in North Luangwa National Park (NLNP). By 1990 these had been virtually exterminated from the country and black rhino were declared nationally extinct in 1998.

Through the partnership known as the North Luangwa Conservation Programme, an agreement between the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) & Zambia Wildlife Authority, poaching was brought under control and by 2001 a proposal was put forward to reintroduce black rhino to NLNP. In 2003 the first of four deliveries took place with the arrival of five black rhino to NLNP. Ten more arrived in 2006, five more in 2008 and the last five were delivered in 2010. 

No rhinos poached, but elephant poaching worse than ever
Since 2003, eight animals have died naturally, there have been no black rhinos poached, & thirteen calves have been born, giving a populations today of 30. Three calves were born in 2013 alone. However, poaching is on the increase and elephant poaching in the ecosystem has taken a significant uptick in the last five years. 2013 poached elephant records will exceed all others over the past 20 years. The threat to the black rhino population is very real and present. A sobering thought: in the 1970s there were 12,000 rhinos in Zambia; just over a decade later, there were none. In 2013, there are less than 12,000 elephants left in Zambia; where will be a decade from now?

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