A World Without Rhinos?
The African Wildlife Foundation has been at the forefront of rhinoceros conservation for several decades. In the early 1970s rhino horn was in high demand in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and these magnificent creatures were being poached to the brink of extinction. AWF recognized this alarming development and joined with other conservation organizations to target the consumer market and launch conservation efforts.
AWF cosponsored with World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union an investigation of the rhino trade in North Yemen and Asia that found that North Yemen was one of the highest contributors to the trade and that between 1972 and 1975 the amount of horn legally imported meant the deaths of nearly 8,000 rhinos. These results prompted AWF to join with other international conservation groups to eliminate the legal trade in that country.
AWF set out to influence the attitude of the North Yemeni government with a direct-mail campaign that explained the gravity of the Yemeni role and included a letter to the Yemeni prime minister requesting an immediate halt to the country's rhino horn trade. In 1982, the Yemeni government issued a decree outlawing rhino horn imports.
During this time, AWF supported Save the Rhino Trust in Zambia. The trust aided the country's scarce rhino population by providing administrative support to conservation efforts as well as the services of a radio specialist who helped develop a communications system that generated publicity about the need for rhino protection and encouraged the government to protect the animals.
Despite valiant conservation efforts, by the mid-1980s the rhino was a heartbeat away from extinction. AWF and other conservationists discovered the only way to secure the species' future was to build strictly protected rhino sanctuaries. In 1986, AWF helped construct the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya' Tsavo West National Park. From its launch with three rhinos in about a third of a square mile in 1986, Ngulia has grown to 49 individuals and covers 27 square miles, protected by an electric fence. From the beginning, AWF worked to assure that the park had long-term funding, a vehicle, radio sets, binoculars and housing for sanctuary staff and rangers.
In 1993 African Wildlife Foundation extended its rhino conservation work beyond East Africa when an AWF representative met with Namibian officials to discuss helping Waterberg National Park, home to 50 white rhinos and 27 black rhinos. This park proved to be so invaluable to rhino conservation that from 1994 to mid-1995 AWF provided support to the park for horseback patrols, camera equipment and incentives for rangers.
AWF undertook yet another critical rhino project last year, partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority in Tanzania to support surveillance of black rhinos. The project helps NCA monitor and protect this small population of eastern black rhino. The goal is to increase the rhino population by more than five percent per year to 100 individuals by the year 2018.