Two thousand captive southern white rhinos were purchased by the non-profit conservation organization African Parks in September of 2023.
These southern white rhinos, which had been living in captivity as part of a breeding operation, represent between 12 and 15 percent of the remaining population of white rhinos in Africa.
Their purchase represents an amazing conservation opportunity for the species, which were hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s.
The 2,000 southern white rhinos were obtained as part of the African Parks purchase of Platinum Rhino.
The farm was listed for sale due to the high cost of running the operation. Platinum Rhino was founded by John Hume as a breeding operation.
It is not apparent what motivated the multimillionaire to found the farm. However, its eventual demise became an incredible opportunity to reintroduce the farm’s large herd of southern white rhinos to the wild.
Since the southern white rhino herd owned by the breeding operation represents such a large percentage of the species’ total population, protecting the herd is important for rhino Conservation.
The fear was that the rhino herd would be sold off to unscrupulous buyers, placing them in danger of poaching. For this reason, African Parks worked to secure emergency funding from private donors to purchase Platinum Rhino.
Along with the 2,000 southern white rhinos, the purchase of the farm also gave the nonprofit ownership of the farm’s land, equipment, and hundreds of other animals. Now, African Parks is working on plans to rewild the large southern white rhino herd.
Over 98 percent of southern white rhinos live in four African countries. These are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. They are genetically distinct from the functionally extinct northern white rhino.
It is estimated that fewer than 16,000 southern white rhinos exist in the wild today. They are considered a “Near Threatened” species. White rhinos are primarily threatened by poaching and habitat loss.
The rewilding of the 2,000 southern white rhinos could drastically alter Conservation efforts for the better. A press statement from African Parks has stated their intent to reintroduce these individuals and their offspring (estimated at roughly 100 per year) over the next decade.
The Platinum Rhino herd will be reintroduced “to well-managed and secure areas, establishing or supplementing strategic populations, thereby de-risking the future of the species.”
In addition to rewilding projects, the nonprofit plans to turn the Platinum Rhino farm into a wildlife sanctuary. Eventually, they will also cease active breeding programs.
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This article by Willow Lynn was first published by One Green Planet on 3 December 2023. Image Credit :EcoPrint/Shutterstock.