Namibia: Rhino Translocation Begins

by Jul 19, 2010Rhinos

Windhoek — Several black rhinos will be relocated from State land to communal conservancies in the 13500-square-kilometre Kunene Region in north-western Namibia over the next two weeks.

Namibia is home to the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos in the world.

Sources, involved in the relocation exercise, said the movement would start early this morning if the wind does not blow too strongly.

The rhinos will be airlifted one by one in a cargo net.

The capture site of the rhinos, as well as where they are to be released, is not accessible by road, hence the airlifting.

Due to increased poaching activity of rhinos in neighbouring South Africa, the sources did not want to disclose the exact number of the black rhinos, as well as the relocation sites.

“The rhinos will be fitted with transmitters to monitor them after their release. The Rhino Trust as well as the receiving conservancy and IRDNC will monitor the rhinos,” a source warned.

Stakeholders involved in the exercise are the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, MCA-Namibia, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The exercise is seen as a welcome wildlife boost giving further confirmation of the success of community-based natural resource management in this remote north-western corner of Namibia, communal land with no formal conservation status.

The desert-adapted black rhino found in the Kunene Region represent the only rhinos worldwide that have survived on communal land, outside of a national reserve.

It is also the only desert-specific population of black rhino in the world.

The desert-adapted black rhino population is currently one of very few populations in Africa that is steadily increasing.

Numbers have more than doubled in recent years, from fewer than 60 in the early 80s to 146 as of the 2006 census.

The word “black” was probably chosen to distinguish it from the white rhinoceros, however, neither species is distinguishable by colour.

The white rhino got its name from the Afrikaans word for wide (“wyd”) referring to its upper lip.

Early English explorers thought this was “white” and consequently named the other rhino “black” as it was different.

The black rhino is also called the “hook-lipped” rhino because of its prehensile upper lip, which it uses to browse and feed on twigs.

Black rhinos browse for food in the morning and evening and sleep or wallow during the hottest part of the day.

They weigh around 1 tonne (800-1500 kg) but, despite the massive weight, they can run at maximum speeds of up to 65 km per hour.