Despite the persistent threat of poaching, African rhino populations have shown a promising increase, with an estimated 23,290 rhinos on the continent by the end of 2022, marking a 5.2% growth from the previous year.
AFRICA STILL FACES MAJOR THREAT
While this is undoubtedly positive news for rhino conservation, the battle against poaching remains far from over. In 2022, at least 561 rhinos fell victim to illegal poaching across Africa. South Africa, home to the largest rhino population on the continent, continues to face significant losses, with 448 rhinos illegally killed in 2022, a slight decrease from 451 in 2021. Namibia reported an alarming increase, detecting 93 poached rhinos in 2022 compared to 47 the previous year. On the other hand, Kenya showed commendable progress, with official figures revealing only one rhino poached in 2022, down from six the year before.
PROTECTION AND BIOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES
The increase in African rhino numbers can be attributed to a combination of protection and biological management initiatives. Black rhinos saw a 4.2% rise, with a total of 6,487 individuals across the continent. White rhinos, which had been in decline for over a decade, made a significant comeback, reaching around 16,803 animals in 2022, marking the first increase in their numbers since 2012.
Dr. Michael Knight, Chair of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, expressed a sense of relief, stating, “With this good news, we can take a sigh of relief for the first time in a decade. However, it is imperative to further consolidate and build upon this positive development and not drop our guard.”
BIODIVERSITY AND ECOLOGICAL BALANCE
The importance of thriving African rhino populations extends beyond their individual preservation. These magnificent creatures are vital for biodiversity and ecological balance, creating habitats for other species and offering opportunities for global restoration and rewilding projects. They also play a crucial role in supporting the livelihoods of local communities, attracting tourists, creating employment opportunities, and contributing to economic development.
As conservation efforts continue, a project to breed white rhinos in a controlled setting, owned by Platinum Rhino, was recently sold to the African Parks Foundation. Over the next decade, African Parks and its partners will work on rehoming and rewilding these 2,000 rhinos, an ambitious endeavour that will require innovative approaches to secure safe and contiguous habitats for these magnificent creatures. The IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group will provide support and technical guidance for African Parks’ plan to reintroduce rhinos into the wild strategically.