Rhino walks 250 kilometers to return home

27 March 2012 | News story

During a foot patrol to track rhinos and deter poaching 53 rhinos were sighted including a female that walked 250 km to return home. The SOS-funded project aims for immediate protection of a sub species of the Critically Endangered Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) in Namibia`s remote north-west Kunene Region. They are the only rhino that persist on unfenced, communal land with no formal conservation status. Protecting the rhino will also provide increased security of the wider habitat, of which the rhinos form an integral part.

Recently, SOS project partner Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT) deployed two of its four tracking teams on a focused patrol in one of the most remote and rugged areas of its 25 000km² operational area. These patrols require extensive pre-planning, with large-format satellite image maps used to plan the route.

The 19-day patrol, using donkeys and vehicles and involving many miles during 90 hours of foot-slogging, resulted in a total of 53 rhino sightings, including many female rhinos with relatively old, healthy calves nearing dispersal age (around four years old).

The most interesting discovery was a female originally captured in July 2010 and airlifted into one of the Conservancy areas. She had returned home walking roughly 250km to almost the exact spot that she was captured. “It was an amazing discovery and a very rare long-distance ‘homing’ event for black rhino,” said Jeff Muntifering, SRT’s Director: Research and Evaluation.