26 August, 2012Reporter: Kerri-Anne Kennerley
Producer: Erin Reimer
In this exhilarating report, Kerri-Anne Kennerley travelled to Kenya to see one of the rarest species on earth — the northern white rhino.
There are only eight of this particular species of rhino left in the world, and out of that, only four that can potentially breed. These four were brought to Ol Pejeta Conservancy from the Czech Republic two years ago, with the help of wildlife organisation Flora and Fauna International and the great generosity of an Australian banker, Alistair Lucas.
Kennerley visited these rhinos along with Lucas, who was seeing them for the first time since they took their first steps on African soil two years ago.
These, along with all the other black and white rhino on the conservancy, are heavily guarded — they live behind electric fences on the 40,000-hectare conservancy. Armed guards patrol night and day, so heavy is the threat of poaching. Poaching has spiked in recent years due to the increased popularity of the use of ground rhino horn in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China.
“We have lost I think about nine rhinos, nine rhinos in the last fifteen years to poaching of which six have been lost in the last two years. So that gives you an indication of how the pressure from poaching has increased so dramatically in recent times,” said Ol Pejeta CEO Richard Vigne.
“Right now, the only way to secure rhino populations is to have armed security with a high capacity to operate both in daylight and at night to deter poachers. If you left rhinos in an unprotected area now, I would give them no longer than a week or two before they would be killed.”
So extreme is the threat in South Africa, where nearly 300 rhinos have been poached this year alone, that radical steps are being taken. Kennerley travelled to a farm on the outskirts of Kruger National Park, where rancher John Hume has taken to dehorning his rhinos every year in a bid to make them less appealing to poachers — an act he was driven to do after losing some of his stock to poachers. And Hume doesn’t want to stop there: he wants to create a legal trade in rhino horn to cut the poachers out of the picture.
In the meantime, World Wildlife Fund South Africa have taken another approach to safeguard the species, flying rhinos by chopper to better ground in a bid to increase breeding. Led by vet Dr Jacques Flamand, the Black Rhino Range Expansion project aims to create new rhino populations. They’ve run the project for eight years, with over 40 calves born during that time.
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