Rhinos Return To Create New Kenyan Population

AMHRB97 Black rhino

Black rhino in Lewa, one of the source reserves for Borana

On November 26 last year we posted on this blog about an ambitious plan to create vital new habitat for black rhinos on Borana, a private reserve in Kenya’s Laikipia region that neighbours Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – already a very successful sanctuary for rhinos.

When we visited Borana a few weeks earlier there had been much excitement, and even more hard work, in anticipation of the move, including beefed-up security and the training of anti-poaching patrols. Pretty much everything was in place for the arrival of the reserve’s high-profile new residents – except the date.

AMHRB100 Black rhino

Black rhino at Lake Nakuru National Park, the other source of rhinos for Borana

It was very clear the green light would not be given for the translocation of the rhinos to Borana until everyone was completely satisfied about security arrangements. Because of the poaching problem a number of private landowners in Kenya were looking to divest themselves of their rhinos because of the heavy cost of protecting them. The owner of Borana, Michael Dyer, was unusual in bucking this trend. He couldn’t wait to see this flagship species on his young conservancy.

Now after a long wait the first of 21 black rhinos from Lewa and Lake Nakuru National Park are being translocated to Borana. The move is being carried out by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) to help manage expanding rhino populations in these two established reserves.

AC80 Sam Taylor, Borana

Sam Taylor, chief conservation officer, Borana

‘Having rhinos here makes sense,’ Borana’s chief conservation officer Sam Taylor told us on a tour of the reserve last September. ‘There’s an urgent need for new habitat for them. Habitat is the key thing, so there was a need and an obligation to offer ourselves.’

He explained the idea had been on the table since 2008: ‘Essentially, on a micro-level, Lewa is running out of space. The rhinos are going to start fighting over territories more than breeding. In the metapopulation of the country, by around 2015, every bit of available space that could be used for rhinos is going to be used. So there’s going to be a surplus of about 60 rhinos,’ he said.

‘We’ve been given a carrying capacity by the Kenyan Wildlife Service of about 45 rhinos, but we will introduce about 20 which is the minimum number for a starter population outlined in the national rhino strategy. A big part of getting our infrastructure ready has involved rejuvenating old roads, getting all our fencing up to scratch and training all our men.’

‘Poaching is a serious issue, you’ve got to try to tackle that, but if you can get rhinos breeding like this, you can start to negate those losses,’ said Sam. Looking out over the rugged expanse of Borana ranch when we stopped to take in the view we could see the place was packed with perfect black rhino habitat. ‘It will be wonderful to see rhino here again. They haven’t been seen here since the 1960s,’ he agreed.

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