Two thousand Southern White Rhino to be released into the wild over next decade

Rhino and Lion Nature boasts a memorable wildlife experience. Photo Supplied

Rhino and Lion Nature boasts a memorable wildlife experience. Photo Supplied

Published Sep 6, 2023


In a monumental conservation effort, African Parks, a leading non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving Africa's natural heritage, has acquired the world's largest captive rhino breeding operation.

This initiative aims to rewild over 2,000 Southern white rhinos within the next decade. The move comes as a rescue mission to safeguard these rhinos and protect them from poaching and habitat fragmentation.

The breeding operation known as "Platinum Rhino" was facing financial stress and was put up for auction in April 2023. However, it received no bids, placing the rhinos at considerable risk.

Currently, Platinum Rhino, located on a 7,800-hectare property in South Africa's North West province, houses 2,000 Southern white rhinos, accounting for up to 15% of the world's remaining wild population.

African Parks, renowned for managing 22 protected areas across Africa in partnership with 12 governments, conducted thorough due diligence and secured emergency funding to acquire the farm and its rhinos.

The objective is clear: to rewild these rhinos within the next decade to well-managed and secure areas, bolstering strategic populations and ensuring the species' future.

Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, acknowledges the enormity of this undertaking, stating, "The scale of this undertaking is simply enormous, and therefore daunting. However, it is equally one of the most exciting and globally-strategic conservation opportunities."

African Parks will collaborate with governments, funding partners, and conservation organisations to realise this ambitious rewilding vision.

South African Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment, Ms. Barbara Creecy, voiced support for the conservation initiative, emphasising the government's commitment to aiding the translocation of the rhinos to suitable parks and conservancies in South Africa and across the African continent.

The Southern white rhino population has faced severe threats, particularly in South Africa, due to poaching. Historically, rhinos consisted of two subspecies: the southern white and the northern white.

The northern white rhino is functionally extinct, with only two non-breeding females in captivity in Kenya. The southern white rhino, after plummeting to just 30 to 40 individuals in the 1930s, rebounded to around 20,000 by 2012 through conservation efforts. However, rampant poaching has driven their numbers below 13,000 today.

Dr. Mike Knight, Chairman of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, expressed enthusiasm for African Parks' initiative, noting that it “provides a lifeline for this Near Threatened species and benefits both people and rhino conservation in Africa.”

This ambitious conservation project represents a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to protect endangered rhino populations and restore balance to ecosystems across the African continent.