The NGO managed to secure emergency funding to buy a struggling rhino farm that had been accused of engaging in the trade of rhino horns.
Conservation group African Parks has announced that it will rewild 2,000 southern white rhinos over the next decade after buying the world's largest private captive rhino breeding operation in South Africa. The NGO matched the bid to rescue and rewild the rhinos to safe and well-managed protected areas across Africa. "We will be working with governments and NGOs across the continent to translocate these rhinos and make this vision a reality. We recognize the unique position we are in to provide a meaningful conservation solution and ensure these rhinos become a real asset in the long-term protection of the species and wild ecosystems," they mentioned on Facebook.
According to BBC, these beautiful animals are the second-largest land mammals in the world and are victims of poaching. It is believed that there are only 18,000 southern white rhinos left and they are considered to be a a near-threatened subspecies. The northern white rhinos, of which, there are only two surviving members (both female), are found in Kenya, while most of the southern white rhinos are found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The latter subspecies hit an all-time low of 30 to 40 animals in the 1930's. However, through productive conservation measures, the numbers soared to more than 20,000 in 2012.
African Parks manage 22 national parks in 12 African countries in partnership with governments and local communities. It plans on relocating the 2,000 rhinos to protected areas across the continent to help secure the species' future. The project marks one of the largest continent-wide rewilding programs undertaken for any species. CEO Peter Fearnhead said they initially had no intention of owning a captive rhino breeding operation. However, they "fully recognize the moral imperative of finding a solution for these animals so that they can once again play their integral role in fully functioning ecosystems," as per their website.
Moreover, the NGO managed to secure emergency funding to buy the financially struggling 7,800-hectare (19,000-acre) rhino farm Platinum Rhino, owned by John Hume, who put it up for sale in April. Hume has been recognized as a conservationist but has been criticized for engaging in the trade of rhino horn. He justified the trade, claiming that it was necessary to safeguard his rhinos from poaching and raise funds to sustain the farm. The highly-guarded farm cost more than $425,000 per month to run, according to auction documents, reports Euro News. The auction opened for bids starting at $10 million.
Animal lovers worldwide are just grateful to know that the animals are free and will be back in the wild. Hansi Holzner, on Facebook, commented, "This has been my dream! African Parks is taking over this farm, Incredible. I can hardly believe it. Hopefully, the South African authorities don't put any obstacles in your way. This solution with African Parks seems to me to be the only way to somehow turn this gigantic project for the protection of the southern white rhino around for the better."
African Parks replied, "We fully agree! African Parks purchased the farm after a feasibility assessment and the endorsement of the South African Government and securing initial emergency funding from key donors. And our sole vision is to translocate the rhino to well-managed protected areas across Africa, to supplement or create strategic populations to protect the long-term future of the species."