Thanks to concerted conservation efforts, Africa's rhinoceros population continues to increase. There are now an estimated 14,770 rhinos in Africa, up from 13,109 rhinos in 1999.
In recent decades, rhinos have been poached to the point of near extinction. Since 1970, the world rhino population declined by 90 percent.
The only two species found today in Africa are the white or square-lipped rhino and the black rhino.
The encouraging progress in rhino conservation was announced by The World Conservation Union's African Rhino Specialist Group, at its binannual meeting in Malilangwe, Zimbabwe. The group reported increases in both white and black rhino populations over the past two years:
In addition to updating the rhino counts, participants also discussed encouraging reports of re-establishing rhino populations in former rhino ranges in Botswana, Uganda and Zambia. All of these rhino reintroduction plans are being supported by both government and the private sector, which is considered critical for success.
The African Wildlife Foundation has been at the forefront of rhinoceros conservation for several decades. AWF has supported anti-poaching efforts and banning trade in rhino horns. But because the value of these endangered animals is so great and the threats to their survival so intense, more drastic protection measure have been necessary, as exemplifed by our work in Kenya's Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks, where rhinos have been reintroduced.
AWF has been credited with helping save Africa's rhinos. "These animals are alive because of support from several groups, especially AWF," says Richard Kech, former officer-in-charge of Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park.
Chief Scientist Dr. Philip Muruthi greeted the increase in Africa's rhino numbers with optimism, but cautioned that "threats to rhinos are still profound, and we must not relax our efforts to save this 'essence of Africa.'" AWF currently supports rhino conservation in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the past has supported populations in Namibia and South Africa.
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