Black Rhino Expansion Program
The tragedy of rhino poaching, the gruesomeness associated with it and the impact that it has had on the survival of the species has been devastating. In East Africa the eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) has been poached to the brink of extinction. In Tanzania today the majority of this population resides in the north of the country and is largely comprised of individuals that have been translocated to protected areas (or are the offspring thereof). Many of them have been moved from overseas zoos. There is also a population of less than 100 eastern black rhino, outside of their natural range, in a game reserve in South Africa. According to the IUCN Red List (2011), there are less than 800 eastern black rhinos in the wild (88 of which are in Tanzania). Because of these grim facts, it is only natural that the Grumeti Fund is part of an eastern black rhino expansion program. Our particular program has been in the works since 2007. Since the program’s inception we have learned a great deal and have experienced progress as well as set backs. One thing we know for sure is that it is crucial that we pursue our mission, not only for the survival of the species but also the ecosystems in which they thrive.
We are sad to report that the bull rhino, John, has passed away. He was translocated to the concession in December last year from Ngorongoro Conservation Area. John’s legacy remains as he sired many calves in his day, making a significant impact on the rhino population in Tanzania. Unfortunately, none of those calves were born on the Singita Grumeti concession, as he joined us at the old age of 38. John lived out his final days in our rhino sanctuary with a female rhino, Laikipia. His passing occurred naturally and in peace.
A Brief History (2007 – 2016)
We began the program with the translocation of two black rhino, Laikipia and Limpopo, from the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park (Kent, UK) in 2007. This was a success and the two rhino made the transition to their natural habitat well. Despite high hopes for Laikipia and Limpopo to produce offspring the two were not successful. In 2013 we endured the tragic loss of Limpopo, who was gored by a bull elephant. Thus, in 2015 we conducted another translocation when John, the 38 year-old bull was moved from nearby Ngorongoro Conservation Area to Grumeti. John’s recent death, although not surprising due to his old age, is a set back in the expansion program, but one which has further motivated the Fund to make significant progress in the near future.
The Set Up
Today, we only have one rhino on the concession (Laikipia). She lives in a 270 hectare rhino sanctuary with prime rhino vegetation (black rhino are browsers, so they eat trees and shrubs). The aim for rhino coming to Grumeti is to introduce them into the greater Serengeti ecosystem. Therefore the sanctuary functions as a temporary space for them to acclimate and hopefully breed, before being released. There are a total of eight scouts providing 24/7 protection and surveillance.
The obvious goal of a rhino expansion project is more rhino! Thus there are plans for a potential translocation from South Africa (Thaba Tholo Game Farm), which would allow up to five more rhino to join Laikipia. In order to boost reproduction chances as much as possible the make up of this group would be predominately female. We are speaking with various government partners, vets and scientists to ensure this project progresses effectively. The fight to save eastern black rhinos is one against the clocks. With a small population remaining and an increased threat in poaching we are faced with an urgent and difficult task – one that we are ready to tackle.
Please get in touch if you want to support or learn more about this program – firstname.lastname@example.org