A massive effort is underway in Kenya to save its black rhinos, using the latest in technology and overwhelming manpower.
At the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working with Kenya Wildlife Service to save their black rhino population. With around 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild, and poaching remaining a significant problem, they have ramped up their efforts to effectively monitor as many animals as they can on the reserve.
KWS Chief Veterinarian Isaac Lekolool says, “In the previous years we’ve been…fitting the microchips on their [rhinos] bodyparts. But you see now we are doing a combination of fitting the radio transmitters and the microchips…”
In February 2016, the team fit 40 black rhinos with radio transmitters. The radio transmitters enable rangers to track individual animals while on their daily patrols.
Martin Mulama, Rhino Program Coordinator, says that the transmitters will be useful for knowing if an animal is getting into an area that could be dangerous, “an area that could easily be poached”.
The rhino horns are drilled to accommodate the transmitters. The tips of the horns are sawn off to allow the radio transmitter’s antenna to poke through. Since the transmitter is a radio rather than GPS, the rhinos can be tracked only by those who know the transmitter’s individual frequencies.
From 2008 to 2013, says Mulama, poaching increased. In 2014 they lost 35 rhinos to poaching. While 2015 they saw a significant decline – only 11 animals were lost.
The teams of men, the trucks and the helicopters involved in this undertaking are incredible. The cost incurred must be astronomical.
Hopefully Kenya will further embrace sport hunting to help in the cause of protecting its black rhinos. Hunter dollars have been instrumental to the conservation efforts in other countries.
In Namibia, for example, the hunting of the black rhino has generated funds for conservation programs that have more than doubled that country’s black rhino population.
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