The Star (Kenya)

Con­ser­va­tion wins as Ngu­lia Sanc­tu­ary rhi­nos reach 100

Good fence, ded­i­cated rangers have en­sured breed­ing project suc­ceeds

- GIL­BERT KOECH @ es­tarkenya Animals · Zoology · Ecology · Wildlife · Biology · Africa · Kenya · Poaching · Kenya Wildlife Service

A con­ser­vancy’s ef­forts to pre­vent poaching and in­crease the pop­u­la­tion of black rhi­nos is bear­ing fruit, with the sanc­tu­ary in Ngu­lia hills host­ing 100 of the highly en­dan­gered species.

Ngu­lia Sanc­tu­ary, a 90km2 con­ser­vancy with elec­tric fenc­ing, keeps the black rhi­nos un­der close mon­i­tor­ing to pro­tect them from harm.

Africa Wildlife Foun­da­tion ecol­o­gist Ken­neth Kimitei said the elec­tric fence is cur­rently be­ing up­graded to bet­ter se­cure the species.

Kimitei said as the num­ber of rhi­nos in the sanc­tu­ary grows, some are re­leased into Tsavo West Na­tional Park.

If the num­bers ex­ceed the car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, it will cause se­vere degra­da­tion of the habi­tat, he said.

“We had one poaching in­ci­dent on De­cem­ber 31, 2016 where a mother and a calf were poached,” he said.

No poaching in­ci­dent has been re­ported since them.

Kimitei said the well-equipped and fa­cil­i­tated team and avail­able wa­ter for rhi­nos are the rea­sons for the suc­cess of con­ser­va­tion at the sanc­tu­ary.

“Rhi­nos are wa­ter-de­pen­dent. ey take wa­ter at least two times a day,” he said.

e sanc­tu­ary has five wa­ter holes sup­plied by a nearby bore­hole. AWF pro­vided the fund­ing for wa­ter and a standby gen­er­a­tor to pump it.

Kimitei said the well-main­tained fence and ded­i­cated rangers have en­sured that the breed­ing of the iconic species suc­ceeds.

“We have pro­vided rangers with proper hous­ing, fresh wa­ter and pro­tec­tive gear. e sanc­tu­ary also has good roads,” he said.

Armed Kenya Wildlife Ser­vice rangers do pa­trols for 24 hours. ey also iden­tify and record rhi­nos us­ing spe­cial marks such as their body shape, ear notch­ing among oth­ers.

Ev­ery time a new calf is born, their records are kept as it will in­form de­ci­sion mak­ing.

Kimitei said close mon­i­tor­ing of com­pet­i­tive her­bi­vores such as ele­phants and gi­raffes was also be­ing done.

AFW is cur­rently up­grad­ing the five strands elec­tric fence to 10 strands. e dis­tance be­tween the poles is also be­ing re­duced from 10 me­ters to seven me­ters.

“e strands will also be con­nected to a siren that goes off when tam­pered with,” he said.

e 52km perime­ter fence up­grade for the sanc­tu­ary will cost Sh500,000 per kilo­me­tre.

Rangers at the sanc­tu­ary are also armed with tech­nol­ogy to help them mon­i­tor rhi­nos and com­bat poaching.

Apart from pro­tec­tion, the aim of the sanc­tu­ar­ies is to build up the num­ber of rhi­nos as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Rhi­nos are a species of con­ser­va­tion con­cern fol­low­ing a dra­matic re­duc­tion in their pop­u­la­tion in the 1970s and early 1980s as a re­sult of the il­le­gal trade in their horn.

Kenya’s black rhino pop­u­la­tion de­clined from ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 an­i­mals in 1970 to fewer than 400 an­i­mals in 1987.

e coun­try’s black rhino ac­tion plan 2017-2021 says that the fu­ture of the species is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance to the gov­ern­ment.

Black rhi­nos are smaller than white rhi­nos, and there is ac­tu­ally no colour dif­fer­ence be­tween them at all.

Black rhi­nos use their hooked lip to browse shrubs – and pre­fer thick bush habi­tat.

ey are gen­er­ally more soli­tary and shy than the white rhino and have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing more ag­gres­sive too.

e gov­ern­ment says rhi­nos are a flag­ship species, a highly charis­matic an­i­mal that can serve as a ral­ly­ing point for con­ser­va­tion. ey cap­ture the at­ten­tion of peo­ple from all over the world and can gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant re­turns from wildlife-based tourism.

ey are also an um­brella species as their con­ser­va­tion de­pends on large ar­eas of ecosys­tems be­ing con­served and pro­tected.

ere­fore they serve the ob­jec­tive of wider bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion.

Rhi­nos are key­stone species with sig­nif­i­cant roles in eco­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics. eir per­sis­tence is im­por­tant to the con­ser­va­tion of other el­e­ments of bio­di­ver­sity.

e sixth edi­tion of the Black Rhino Ac­tion Plan’s long-term vi­sion is to have a meta-pop­u­la­tion of at least 2,000 black rhi­nos of the east­ern African sub­species in Kenya, and in suit­able habi­tats as a global her­itage.

e over­all goal is to achieve a meta-pop­u­la­tion of 830 black rhi­nos by the end of 2021; a net growth of at least 5 per cent per an­num main­tained in at least six estab­lished pop­u­la­tions; pos­i­tive net growth achieved in all re­cov­er­ing pop­u­la­tions.

‘WE HAVE PRO­VIDED RANGERS WITH PROPER HOUS­ING, FRESH WA­TER AND PRO­TEC­TIVE GEAR. THE SANC­TU­ARY ALSO HAS GOOD ROADS’

 ?? /COURTESY ?? A black rhino in Ngu­lia, Tsavo Park
/COURTESY A black rhino in Ngu­lia, Tsavo Park
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