40 southern white rhinos to be ‘re-wilded’ in KZN reserve

One of the 40 southern white rhinos being rewilded at Munywana Conservancy in Zululand. | Supplied

One of the 40 southern white rhinos being rewilded at Munywana Conservancy in Zululand. | Supplied

Published May 18, 2024


Durban — Forty southern white rhinos have found a new home at the Munywana Conservancy in Zululand.

Last week’s first translocation of dehorned rhinos formed part of Rhino Rewild, a continent-wide initiative by African Parks to rewild 2 000 southern white rhinos into secure protected areas in Africa over the next decade.

Thokozani Mlambo, chairperson of the Makhasa Trust, one of the four primary shareholders of the Munywana Conservancy, said they were “extremely pleased” to receive the rhinos to supplement the current population in the community conservancy.

“We see this as recognition of the important role community-owned land plays in conservation, and we are proud to be collaborating in such a significant partnership to rewild rhino across our continent,” said Mlambo.

In 2007, 9 085 hectares of land were returned to its ancestral owners, the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities, as part of South Africa’s land restitution process. Both communities requested that the land continue to be kept under conservation.

This legacy is part of the 29 866-hectare Munywana Conservancy reserve upheld through a collaboration of community and private landowners that includes the Makhasa Community Trust, the Mnqobokazi Community Trust, &Beyond Phinda and Zuka Private Game Reserves.

In September, African Parks bought the world’s largest captive rhino breeding operation when it faced financial collapse. Its main aim is to rewild all the rhinos to well-managed and secure protected areas, establishing or supplementing strategic populations, ultimately helping to de-risk the future of the species.

One of the 40 southern white rhinos being rewilded at Munywana Conservancy in Zululand. | Supplied

The organisation said the Munywana Conservancy offered a secure environment to support the rewilding of southern white rhino. This move would bolster its current rhino population, enhancing genetic diversity, aiding future rhino translocations to other locations, and supporting tourism – a key driver of the local economy.

This first translocation of the rhinos was carried out by African Parks, &Beyond Phinda, Conservation Solutions and We Wild Africa with the financial support of the Aspinall Foundation and the Wildlife Emergency Fund.

“We recognise the magnitude and logistical feat of moving 2 000 rhinos. This is just the beginning of a long-term partnership with African Parks where we can play our part in making a tangible contribution to the future of the southern white rhino in Africa,” said We Wild Africa chairperson Damian Aspinall.

Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said the government was supportive of African Parks’ rewilding plan and remained a key partner in providing technical and scientific advice and support.

“I am especially pleased to see that the first translocation of some of the 2 000 white rhinos are going to this important landscape within South Africa.

“It’s a flagship partnership in which communities are making a significant contribution to the conservation of our natural heritage,” she said.

Africa Parks said that after translocation, the rhinos’ body condition and parasite adaptation would be closely monitored as they adjusted to their new environment.

The conservancy would implement intensive security measures to ensure the safety of the 40 dehorned rhino.

“We believe that both African Parks and the Munywana have the same ethos and guiding principles when it comes to conservation, and in that spirit the Munywana has gladly accepted this donation, enabling these rhino to start the process of becoming fully wild and free-roaming,” said Munywana warden and conservation manager Dale Wepener.

African Parks said the southern white rhino was under extreme pressure because of poaching and habitat loss, so there was a need for well protected areas where they could thrive.

Independent on Saturday