In a remarkable move to safeguard the future of southern white rhinos, South African Conservation Group African Parks has embarked on a rewilding project. Aiming to release a whopping 2,000 rhinos into the wild over the next decade. This ambitious endeavor is the silver lining in a story that started with financial woes, nearly culminating in the demise of these majestic creatures.
In April 2023, a private captive rhino breeding operation known as “Platinum Rhino,” located in the North West Province of South Africa, was pushed to the brink, and the threat of poaching loomed large. Fortunately, African Parks stepped in to prevent what could have been a disastrous loss for rhino conservation.
Platinum Rhino’s Financial Stress
The drama began when Platinum Rhino, previously owned by South African conservationist John Hume, found itself drowning in financial stress. Hume, who had dedicated his life and savings to these rhinos for over three decades, faced an agonizing decision. On April 26, 2023, the operation was put up for auction, raising concerns that this vulnerable rhino population could be gradually sold off in a liquidation process, spelling doom for the survival of these creatures.
African Parks’ Heroic Intervention
In the eleventh hour, African Parks came to the rescue, ensuring that these magnificent creatures would not be lost forever. The conservation NGO secured emergency funding to purchase the 7,800-hectare property, along with its 2,000 near-threatened inhabitants. These rhinos represent almost 15% of the world’s remaining southern white rhino population.
The Monumental Challenge of “Rewilding”
The scale of this undertaking is colossal, and undoubtedly daunting. However, it is equally one of the most exciting and globally strategic conservation opportunities of our time. Rewilding these rhinos means translocating them over the next ten years to suitable parks and conservancies across South Africa and the African continent. It’s a mission of mammoth proportions and one that African Parks is eager to embark upon.
Rhino Conservation Crisis
Africa’s rhino population has been battling a severe crisis. Factors like poaching, driven by the illegal ivory trade, and habitat loss have taken a tremendous toll on rhinos. At the turn of the 20th century, there were approximately 500,000 rhinos in Africa and Asia. Now, we are left with a mere 22,137 rhinos in Africa, according to the African Rhino Specialist Group, and 15,942 of them are white rhinos. It’s a distressing decline, and if immediate action is not taken, the southern white rhino could follow the northern white rhino into functional extinction.
The Role of African Parks
African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead emphasized the importance of this mission. He states, “The scale of this undertaking is simply enormous and therefore daunting. However, it is equally one of the most exciting and globally strategic conservation opportunities. We will be working with multiple governments, funding partners, and conservation organizations committed to making this rewilding vision a reality.”
The rewilding of 2,000 southern white rhinos over the next decade is a remarkable conservation effort. African Parks’ heroic intervention has saved these rhinos from the clutches of financial stress, ensuring they can once again thrive in their natural ecosystems. It’s a monumental task, but one that holds the promise of securing the future of these magnificent creatures. Let this be a testament to the power of collective action in the face of adversity. Africa’s rhinos may still have a chance for resurgence, and the world will be watching as this extraordinary journey unfolds.