The black rhino population in Kenya’s Tsavo ecosystem was estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 in the 1970s. By 1989, there were no more than 20 remaining. Of all of Africa’s endangered species, the black rhino is unique because almost 100% of its decline can be attributed not to habitat loss or human-wildlife conflict but to outright poaching.
Today, a resurgence in poaching has left the black rhino more vulnerable than ever before. Rhino horn has been prized in many Asian countries where it is purported to cure cancer and other diseases, and although it is illegal—and any medicinal value has been disproven—the demand for rhino horn only continues to grow.
Established in 1986, the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary remains a stronghold for black rhinos as well as a breeding ground to help bolster other rhino sanctuaries and wild populations. In 2007, the sanctuary was expanded from 24 square miles to 35 square miles, allowing rhinos more room to roam alongside a multitude of other wildlife, including elephants.
Ngulia is a fenced sanctuary, protected by rangers and staff. African Wildlife Foundation has offered support to the sanctuary—operated by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)—since the beginning, helping with initial construction, providing ranger uniforms and equipment, giving funding to fix fencing and build ranger housing, and more. The security offered by fenced sanctuaries allows rhinos to live and reproduce without the constant threat of poaching and allows researchers to monitor vulnerable black rhino populations.
What started off as a population of three rhinos has been so successful that as of late 2012, the sanctuary had an estimated 71 individuals. The Intensive Protection Zone, an unfenced but highly protected area just outside of Ngulia where many of the Ngulia rhinos have been relocated, held another another 19 rhinos (two of which were born in 2012).
And, Ngulia support continues: African Wildlife Foundation recently donated 20 camera traps, along with metal casings, to KWS for rhino monitoring and surveillance in Ngulia and the Intensive Protection Zone. The camera traps are said to have taken a photo of poachers, which KWS submitted to police for suspect identification.
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