NAIROBI, Jan 16 (Swara) – Kenya’s black rhinos were on the brink of extinction three decades ago. Today, their numbers have surged so rapidly that sanctuaries grapple with ‘overcrowding.’ In response, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is initiating a groundbreaking translocation operation, relocating 21 eastern black rhinos to Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County.

Loisaba Conservancy, nestled in the highlands, is set to witness the return of rhinos for the first time in half a century, marking a significant milestone in Kenya’s conservation efforts. Tom Silvester, CEO of Loisaba Conservancy, expressed his excitement: “It means so much to us on Loisaba to see this iconic species come home again and is a mark of Kenya’s conservation success.”

Kenya’s black rhino population has witnessed a remarkable turnaround, soaring from 240 in 1984 to 966 today. With heightened security and successful anti-poaching efforts, Kenya now boasts the third-largest rhino population in Africa, trailing only South Africa and Namibia.

Research has underscored the need for a stable population of 2,000 eastern black rhinos in Kenya to ensure survival against threats like climate change, disease, poaching, and habitat loss. The government of Kenya has made a robust commitment to achieving this goal.

The success lies in Kenya’s efficacy in safeguarding keystone species within protected areas. As black rhinos are solitary animals requiring ample space to disperse, the urgency to create new sanctuaries with ideal conditions has become paramount. Loisaba Conservancy, dedicated to benefiting local communities, has allocated half of its 57,000 acres to secure this new sanctuary, equipped with world-class security measures and low-profile fencing to facilitate the free movement of all wildlife species.

The KWS-led translocation, which commenced on January 16, will involve highly skilled veterinarians transporting rhinos weighing up to 1,400 kilograms by truck to their new home. Partnering organisations provide crucial support, including the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, The Elewana Collection, and Space for Giants. The rhinos will originate from Nairobi National Park, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

Erastus Kanga, KWS Director-General, emphasized the historic nature of the translocation, stating, “As we embark on the historic translocation of 21 black rhinos to Loisaba Conservancy, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the protection, conservation, and expansion of Kenya’s black rhino population.”

The move aligns with Kenya’s vision to establish viable habitats that foster optimal conditions for rhinos to thrive, as outlined in the 7th edition of the Recovery and Action Plan for black rhinos in Kenya (2022-2026). The strategic relocation to Loisaba Conservancy is a testament to Kenya’s dedication to preserving its rich biodiversity and ensuring the continued success of black rhino conservation.