Conservation organization collects huge funds to buy a farm containing 2000 white rhinos from a millionaire.
At present, species conservation is a massive priority for the world. Past actions of humans have badly damaged the ecosystem, leaving them in danger. It is paramount that efforts are made to rehabilitate and protect the vulnerable species. African Parks took a massive step in this pursuit by becoming the official custodian of 2,000 rhinos, as reported by The Guardian. The task was not easy to achieve by any means, but they were able to do so with a massive fundraiser. The rhinos are 12-15% of Africa's remaining white rhino population. According to the International Rhino Foundation, white rhinos are in the "near threatened" category mainly because of the dangers they are facing due to poaching. In such a distressing situation, these rhinos are like a beacon of light for conservationists.
Before African Parks, these rhinos were under the custody of the South African multimillionaire John Hume. He began with 200 animals in 1992, hoping the international ban on rhino horns would be overturned. After losing the waiting game, Hume decided to put his farm up for auction five years ago. He set the starting bid at $10 million. If the farm had not gone into the right hands, these rhinos would have been under a major threat due to factors like poaching and fragmentation.
"Their future was unsure," says Jooste, African Parks' rhino rewilding project manager, who is overseeing the project. "The vulnerability of these rhinos would've increased tenfold. It would have been detrimental to the species because you're not sure what would happen to this 15% of the population." African Parks immediately got to work and secured funding for the farm, equipment, rhinos, and other animals (including 213 buffaloes, 11 giraffes, seven zebra, five hippos, plus sheep and goats). The settled price has not been revealed to the public, with Hume retaining a stockpile of valuable rhino horn from the farm.
While the captive breeding programme will be stopped, natural breeding will result in a total of 3000 rhino that will need to be relocated. That's 300 per year for the next decade. But @AfricanParks is determined to make it work for the sake of the species. #CarteBlanche pic.twitter.com/HKFu4gXZCo— Carte Blanche (@carteblanchetv) October 22, 2023
The organization aims to phase out active breeding and translocate all 2,000 captive-bred rhinos and their future offspring (estimated to be 100 a year) to protected areas across Africa over the next 10 years. Jooste expressed his contentment at this effort and said, "The opportunity is endless. They have massive ecological value, the ability to maintain and shape landscapes as well as economic value for tourism and community value. It's a massive undertaking for conservation, but the end vision is a massive win."
The challenges for African Parks are still not over. The yearly budget is coming close to 75 million rands ($3.9m) a year for food, animal health, staff, and security. "We know the big arrow that rhinos have on their backs, so security is a massive undertaking, with rangers on the ground 24/7," Jooste says. The organization is set to begin the translocation process early next year, with a large portion to remain in South Africa.
This step needs to be carefully handled due to various concerns. "There is a worry about moving rhinos to areas where they will be poached, not just in South Africa," Jooste says. "We totally understand the risks associated with this project. It would be absolutely naive of us to say we'll do this without incurring any losses or risks. But 2,000 rhinos in open systems is a lot better than 2,000 rhinos in a semi-captive operation."