STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Why white rhino numbers increased 34,000%

The southern white rhino has been to the brink of extinction and back, but even as it continues to be under threat from poachers, it's survival is largely th...

Posted: Jun 22, 2020 9:14 AM
Updated: Jun 22, 2020 9:19 AM

The southern white rhino has been to the brink of extinction and back, but even as it continues to be under threat from poachers, it's survival is largely thanks to the conservation work of one park.

Today, most of these rhinos can trace their ancestry back to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park (HiP) in KwaZulu-Nata, South Africa.

In the late 19th century, the southern white rhino was on the brink of extinction due to game hunting.

However, by 2011, numbers had increased from fewer than 50 to over 17,000, mainly due to the work at HiP.

'All southern rhino throughout the world, the gene pool comes from this park,' explains Richard Penn Sawers, park manager at HiP, known as the home of the rhinoceros species.

'It is a species which has huge importance in the conservation world.'

Unfortunately, a new threat emerged just under a decade ago, when poachers began targeting the rhinos for their horns.

Made entirely of keratin, a protein found in hair, fingernails and animal hooves, rhino horn has long been used as a traditional medicine ingredient in countries like China and Vietnam.

But it's since reportedly become popular as among wealthy party goers in Asia.

Coveted horns

'It's worth a great deal of money,' adds Sawers. 'It's worth more than gold.

'There's a very high demand for it, and we are experiencing severe threats on our rhino population at the moment.'

As a result, the 96,000-hectare park, the oldest proclaimed wildlife reserve in Africa, has found itself battling to protect the rhinos once again.

While the rangers here have long been trained to deal with bush meat hunters brandishing assegais (spears) and bush knives, poachers armed with guns was relatively new territory for them.

'The dynamic changed because international syndicates were becoming involved,' says Sawers.

'I think the scourge of rhino poaching migrated South from the Northern parts of Africa where the rhino had been wiped out.'

International trade in rhino horn has been banned for years, but poachers can earn a huge amount of money from selling it on the black market.

'There was a time where everybody thought the rhino would not survive because of the poaching that was taking place,' says Tumelo Matjekane, a project manager at Peace Parks Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists with setting up transfrontier conservation areas in southern Africa.

In order to tackle the organized criminal gangs, HiP was transformed into South Africa's first 'Smart Park.'

Integrated surveillance technology, including smart fencing, has been installed in the grounds of the reserve, along with camera traps to call attention to intruders.

Rapid response

'We consider this to be a war,' explains Sawers. 'So, in any war situation, rapid response and rapid detection is key.'

The park even has an intelligence gathering base, the HiP Nerve Centre, which keeps track of information picked up by the cameras.

'They're [the camera traps] all linked to the internet and they send their photographs directly to the Nerve Centre,' explains Sawers.

'So, we know exactly where the camera is and where the photograph comes from. And we can react very, very quickly.'

The team use a helicopter so they can reach targeted areas swiftly.

It was recently deployed just eight minutes after being given the green light, reaching its intended location around seven minutes later.

'Without the technology, it would have probably taken in the region of two hours,' adds Sawers. 'And by then it would have been too late.'

Of course, such advanced technology is costly, the Peace Parks Foundation apparently contributed more than 10.6 million South African rand (around $600,000) towards the rhino protection program.

Sawers says he's extremely encouraged by the results so far.

'Where we were losing between 10 and 15 rhino a month, that has stopped completely,' he says.

For Sawers, whose great-grandfather was a park ranger here, protecting the rhinos is too important for any level of complacency.

'The preservation of the southern white rhino is critical,' he adds. 'We cannot allow it to disappear. It would be too awful to contemplate.'

West Lafayette
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Kokomo
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 52°
Rensselaer
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Fowler
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 39°
Williamsport
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 37°
Frankfort
Overcast
50° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 50°
Delphi
46° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Monticello
46° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 39°
Logansport
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 41°
Much Colder Tonight with Any Rainfall Tapering.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 155246

Reported Deaths: 4065
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25151785
Lake13570355
St. Joseph9145161
Elkhart8759135
Allen8129228
Hamilton6117113
Vanderburgh576760
Tippecanoe369515
Hendricks3268133
Monroe325738
Porter313649
Johnson3105128
Clark293961
Delaware293274
Vigo260538
Madison235093
Cass224022
LaPorte222858
Warrick192965
Kosciusko182625
Floyd179167
Howard162466
Bartholomew141558
Dubois138626
Marshall137426
Wayne126930
Henry125429
Grant125339
Boone122250
Hancock118245
Noble115933
Jackson112915
Dearborn94928
Morgan93740
Lawrence87436
Daviess87133
Gibson87111
Clinton84716
Shelby81730
LaGrange80115
Harrison76224
Knox75610
Putnam72816
Posey7146
DeKalb71011
Fayette66618
Steuben6278
Miami6095
Jasper5945
White58515
Montgomery58322
Greene53337
Scott51813
Decatur50439
Adams4837
Whitley4556
Clay4467
Ripley4418
Sullivan43714
Wells4288
Wabash4119
Starke4077
Orange40425
Huntington3905
Spencer3906
Washington3753
Franklin37225
Jennings36713
Fulton3523
Randolph3529
Jefferson3415
Pike33018
Carroll32513
Perry31014
Jay3056
Fountain2943
Tipton27523
Vermillion2411
Parke2323
Newton22511
Rush2154
Blackford2093
Owen2051
Martin1990
Crawford1581
Pulaski1521
Brown1393
Ohio1297
Benton1100
Union1100
Switzerland920
Warren781
Unassigned0234

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events