Recovery of the Kunene rhinos - Knights of the Namibian desert

Gland, Switzerland (01.11.01) IUCN-The World Conservation Union. An IUCN Species Survival Commission member is central to the remarkable recovery of some of the most unusual members of the rhino world - the desert-dwelling black rhino of Namibia.

Blythe Loutit of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), who is also a member of the IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), has worked for more than 20 years Desert rhino by IUCN's Sue Mainkato conserve rhinos in the northwestern province of Kunene. She helps local people improve their lives while safeguarding their natural resources. In 1982, when the Trust was established, poaching had decimated local populations of wildlife, including black rhino. Numbers had declined to less than 70. Following two decades of dedication and commitment, rhino numbers have doubled. SRT work includes anti-poaching patrols, ecotourism development, and research - all involving local communities.

More than 130 black rhino are now thriving in extremely rugged conditions under the protection of the local communities. In Kunene, everyone is concerned about rhino - farmers, tourist lodge operators, concession owners and visitors, as well as the Namibian Government. In October 2000, in response to an unusually high death rate of rhino calves, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism wrote to all safari groups, lodges and tour operators with guidelines to follow when visiting Kunene.

The AfRSG has identified the desert rhinos in Namibia, Diceros bicornis bicornis, as key to the survival of desert rhino in the world. This subspecies is largely limited to Namibia, but there are also a few small newly-introduced populations in the arid western areas of South Africa. The two major populations in Namibia are rated as "key" populations for the survival of this subspecies by Group. Any conservation programmes aimed at maintaining or enhancing the viability of these populations are therefore strongly supported.

For further information contact

Save the Rhino Trust, Welfare Organisation Nr. 53, P.O.Box 224, Swakopmund, Namibia; Tel./Fax: +264 (0) 64 403829; E-Mail: [email protected]

Anna Knee or Andrew McMullin, IUCN Species Programme Communications Officers
Tel: +41 (0)22 999 0153
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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