Black Rhino Range Expansion Project

Dr Jacques Flamand (contact him here), the main character in the film, is the WWF project leader of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, a WWF/ Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife partnership, supported by the Mazda Wildlife Fund. The critically endangered black rhino expanded into its historical range when a founder population of 13 animals was recently released into a new home in Limpopo province. The animals form the sixth founder population created through the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. “All went well with the translocation and release,” said Dr Flamand. “The new area had a lot of rain soon after we released which means there will be good browse and water. The animals have settled well after spending a few days exploring the area.”

The recent surge in rhino poaching underlines the importance of conservation initiatives like the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, Dr Flamand explained. “There are two sides to good rhino conservation. One is intensive security for existing populations. The other is managing to make sure that your population grows as fast as possible. If you do not manage for high population growth rate, then effectively over time you are losing a lot of animals that could have been born. Rapid population growth rate can mean the difference between survival and extinction for a critically endangered species.”

98 black rhino have been translocated through the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project so far, and at least 26 calves have been born on project sites. One site already has 11 calves, and 10 calves have been born in 2010. “We wanted a minimum of 5% growth per year, and now we’re reaching more than 7% on some of our project sites, which is very good to see,” says Dr Flamand. “Also, indications are that the growth rate is improving on source populations such as Imfolozi, which was a concern before.”

There are currently about 4500 black rhino left in Africa, up from the lowest point of about 2100 in the early 1990s. Black rhino have a reputation for being bad-tempered but in fact are just shy and nervous of strangers. New research suggests they have social structures that were previously not recognised. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase land available for black rhino conservation, thereby increasing numbers of this critically endangered species. This is done by forming partnerships with landowners with large areas of black rhino habitat. Usually several landowners agree to remove internal fences in order to create large enough areas to hold a significant population of black rhino. The Project also supports security measures on important black rhino source populations.

This film was produced by Green Renaissance, professionals in environmental and social video content creation. Their aim is to help conscious companies and organisations share their vision. 2010 was a very exciting year for them as they won an SAB Environmental Journalist Award.

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