ISIOLO (Xinhua) -- Three Kenyan wildlife conservancies has embarked on a relocation program in a bid to expand black rhino habitat in the country, and boost populations of the iconic species.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy plan to move some 20 preselected rhinos from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks to a sanctuary within the community owned and operated Sera Community Conservancy in Isiolo in eastern Kenya to help enhance protection and well-being.
"It is expected that the presence of black rhino in Samburu County will be a significant boost to tourism in the area whilst providing new job opportunities for local communities,"said NRT- Kenya spokesperson Sophie Harrison.
Harrison said parts of the sanctuary will also be set aside for dry season grazing for local herders, and the community looks forward to increased overall security in the area.
She said two rhino have already been successfully moved and released to their new home.
This will be the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signaling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts.
"This pioneering move demonstrates the government’s confidence in the local community, and materializes the promise to support community-based conservation initiatives as provided for by the new Wildlife Act, 2013," Harrison said.
She said the candidates earmarked for translocation range from six and a half years to 20 years old. Candidates are meant to reflect natural demographics and encourage natural breeding conditions.
"All animals will be fitted with satellite-based transmitters for close monitoring.
"The community rangers have been trained by Lewa and KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, bush craft and effective patrolling, and will have the back-up of the Lewa, NRT and KWS Anti-Poaching Units," Harrison said.
According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature, populations of the Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) plummeted by 98 per cent between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting.
However, conservation efforts have managed to stabilize and increase numbers in most of the black rhino’s former ranges since then.
Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimate of 640.
It is projected to rise significantly in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations.
It is hoped that the new rhino sanctuary will benefit Kenya’s black rhino population.
Sera Community Conservancy, established in 2001, is a member of NRT umbrella.
It is governed by a council of elders, an elected board of trustees, a management team and the residing communities which include the Samburu, Rendille and Borana.