SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation
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Rhino conservation problems





South Africa





Rhino conservation problems

Most of southern Africa ís surviving rhinos are in protected areas. These include national parks, private conservancies and other types of protected area. While the management systems vary between these different areas, generally all rhinos are under active protection. All three rhino subspecies that occur naturally in the SADC region are listed in the IUCNís Red List of endangered species.


Conservation status of the rhino subspecies targeted by the SADC Programme




IUCN 2001 Red List rating

South-central black rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis minor

Critically endangered

South-western black rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis bicornis


Southern white rhino

Ceratotherium simum simum

Near Threatened



The conservation and management of rhino populations require an unrelenting effort on several key fronts:

       Development and employment of effective institutional capacities  The conservation of wild rhinos often requires the co-ordination of a broad range of stakeholders, including several government agencies, non-governmental organisations, private sector operators (for example, tourism operators and private land owners), professional bodies and many others. The institutional capacity to develop policies and enforce conservation measures is also crucial and depends on policies and institutional and political contexts that may vary between countries. Without these supporting and enabling factors, rhino conservation efforts are often doomed.

       Maintenance of effective field protection and surveillance through intense patrolling, intelligence, and the detection and control of poaching  These functions are essential for conservation efforts to succeed. Effective protection measures depend on critical technical, financial and management resources of the local institutions overseeing protected areas. These institutions need to employ sufficient staff, communications and transport, well-maintained fencing and information management systems.

       Conservation of the genetic viability of populations  If populations are small and fragmented, then often the remnant groups need to be brought together. Breeding animals need to be exchanged between populations so that inbreeding is avoided. Programmes of translocations allow small populations to be managed as a  "metapopulation" with controlled gene flow.

       Addressing the demographic concerns of rhino populations  The main goal is to achieve the healthy biological growth of populations by reducing mortality and increasing fertility through well-managed stocking densities. Accurate monitoring of the populations and their performance is essential. The countries that have achieved strong population growth of rhino populations have relied on intensive monitoring and management.

       Addressing the ecological aspects of rhino conservation areas  Environmental factors determine the ecological carrying capacity, which needs to be properly estimated in order to avoid over-stocking. Soil fertility and geological features, rainfall, vegetation composition and cover, fire, and competition from other herbivores are among the ecological factors affecting rhino population performance.

       Addressing the socio-economic factors of rhino conservation areas  The control of poaching and the viability of protected areas are often dependent on their socio-economic context. Rural poverty fuels poaching. Protected areas and conservation need to produce tangible economic benefits if they are to be accepted by local people, to off-set their costs and to play a positive role in raising economic conditions.