Two rhino translocations this year, one in Tanzania and the other in Namibia, have set a new record for the largest, albeit temporary, relocation of endangered rhinos, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced.
“These are the largest translocations of white rhinos that have ever been made,” said Steve C.M. Fitch, programme director for the Sierra Nevada and neighboring regions of the IUCN.
Translocation is a means of saving the rhino, which is facing extinction in parts of Africa and is currently protected by an international treaty known as the Protocol to End the Traffic in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (PDF).
This move was to save one of a subspecies of rhinos in South Africa and the latest of five translocations to attempt to preserve South Africa’s remaining 2,000 rhinos, according to SafariBookings.com.
The operation was coordinated by the IUCN and also included WWF in Africa, the Namibian Game Parks, SA-based San Pass and John Muir Foundation.
According to the IUCN, since 2000—the first year translocations were made public—calls to park officials for information about rhino relocation have increased. So have the requests for help.
This is the eighth rhino to be transferred for conservation in Africa since January. Over 400 rhinos have been moved since 2000, the IUCN said.
Black rhinos remain as the most endangered species of rhino, while white rhinos are the only species that makes a viable population—approximately 20,000.
Western black rhinos, with an average age of 22, have already begun breeding and could provide babies who could be rebounded in the future.
“African rhinos are increasing in numbers for the first time in two decades, but there is no room to do without necessary translocations,” said Fitch.
Rhinos are protected by The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and must be registered in order to trade in their body parts. These parts include the horn, skin, gland, teeth and bones.
Translocation aims to ensure a healthy population in threatened populations without disrupting or driving animals towards extinction.
Some conservationists say the rapid population growth may not be beneficial for the animals.
The Namibian Game Parks and Namibia’s Northern Wildlife Conservancy (NWC) say recent population growth brings risks for the species, and this is especially problematic in Namibia where the rhino population is in its lowest level in 40 years, according to SanctuaryHelp.
“The introduction of the semi-aquatic white rhino will have an impact, especially for our different species and populations, especially for the smaller species…especially those with traditional reverence for rhino horns,” said Gert Seegersander, CEO of Namibia Wildlife Resorts.