Conservation

History was Made

14/06/2024

History was made as 120 Southern White Rhino found a new home in the member Reserves of the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation  

History was made when 120 southern white rhino were successfully relocated to the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation (GKEPF) member reserves in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, South Africa. The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve is privileged to have been a part of this monumental project. This significant boost to the southern white rhino population in the Greater Kruger area demonstrates the success of African Parks’ Rhino Rewild initiative—an ambitious plan to reintroduce 2,000 southern white rhino into secure protected areas in Africa over the next ten years.

GKEPF, established in 2016, is an alliance of nine private reserves, one provincial park, and one national park to service the protection needs of the western and eastern buffers of the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier National Park. This translocation comes at a time when poaching rates within GKEPF reserves have significantly declined, indicating the effectiveness of security and anti-poaching measures.

In September 2023, African Parks made a ground-breaking move by acquiring the world’s largest captive rhino breeding operation. This bold step was part of their Rhino Rewild initiative, a visionary plan to reintroduce 2,000 southern white rhino into secure protected areas in Africa over the next ten years, thereby de-risking the future of the species.

Through Rhino Rewild, African Parks is dedicated to bolstering healthy southern white rhino populations in South Africa – and recognises the country's efforts in rhino conservation for the benefit of the African continent. “Moving 120 rhino under the Rhino Rewild initiative to GKEPF member reserves will augment the existing rhino population in the Greater Kruger and ensure that these rhino are fulfilling their role in their natural environment, which has been our vision from the start,” says Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “Despite significant pressures, GKEPF members have played a critical role in the conservation of the Greater Kruger landscape, providing an important buffer to the Kruger, and we support their commendable progress in protecting rhino populations in their native range.”

GKEPF CEO Sharon Haussmann says, “There wilding itself bears testament to the cumulative knowledge, partnerships, and insights of a protracted period of anti-poaching efforts in the Greater Kruger landscape. That the benefits so clearly outweigh the risks presents a significant opportunity for rewarding the efforts of everyone who has remained committed to safeguarding rhino populations amid extremely challenging circumstances over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Collaboration, a cornerstone of GKEPF’s mandate, has been instrumental in this project. While rhino will not be released into the KNP itself, but into private game reserves along its western boundary, the project could not have occurred without the consensus, collaboration, and expert inputs from KNP and South African National Parks (SANParks) counterparts. This strategic placement to private reserves bordering the KNP strengthens the rhino metapopulation and lays the groundwork for potential future collaboration as the Kruger continues its fight against poaching.

This region of South Africa is an ideal habitat for southern white rhino. The fertile and water-rich grasslands of the selected release areas are ideal for ensuring optimal rhino health and population growth. Through a decade-long collaborative effort to combat rhino poaching, reserves and stakeholders have developed and shared a wealth of expertise. This has significantly bolstered their ability to proactively and effectively address poaching threats and safeguard the species.

Everyone involved is concerned about the safety of these translocated rhino. “The rhino will comein dehorned, which is a very effective way to decrease the poaching risk in this landscape. We’re at a point where this risk is well calculated,” says Markus Hofmeyr, a wildlife vet and Director of the Rhino Recovery Fund. "This will be the first reintroduction of rhino into this landscape in about 50 years,” he adds.

Moving 120 rhino is an enormous undertaking in every way and has taken, as Haussmann explains, “many, many sleepless nights” –as well as extensive funding. African Parks is donating the animals to the reserve, with GKEPF donors contributing to the translocation costs and the subsequent ongoing rhino monitoring, a critical element for the project's long-term success.

The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve wants to thank everyone for making the project a success.  In the spirit of collaboration, we will work with our partners to ensure the safety of these animals, the ongoing monitoring and ultimately the strengthening of the rhino metapopulation.
Photo credit: Mandie Gericke

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