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‘This is just the beginning’

Conservationists have just released 40 southern white rhinos into a private reserve in South Africa, as part of a larger effort to reintroduce the animal into the wild across the continent.

The non-profit organization African Parks announced the donation of the rhinos to the Munywana Conservancy, and they now roam the 29,866-hectare (73,800-acre) reserve. The move was part of an effort by African Parks to place 2,000 of these animals in safe, protected areas across Africa over the next decade, Good Things Guy reported.

Southern white rhinos were once thought to be extinct, but in 1895 a small group of fewer than 100 individuals was discovered in South Africa. Thanks to more than a century of conservation efforts, approximately 18,000 exist today.

However, these giant mammals have lost much of their historic range and are listed as Near Threatened. According to African Parks, white rhinos, which include two different subspecies with different ranges – the southern white rhino and the northern white rhino – are still under extreme pressure due to poaching and habitat loss.

Continued conservation work, such as the donation from African Parks, will ensure they do not end up like the northern white rhino, of which only two survive in the wild. Meanwhile, three species of rhinos – the black, Javan and Sumatran – are critically endangered.

Protecting our surviving rhinos is not only the right thing to do from a species conservation perspective; it can also help provide local communities with income through ecotourism opportunities.

Rhinos also make an important contribution to the savannas where they live. By chewing large amounts of vegetation, they help shape the African landscape and keep the ecosystem in balance. This not only benefits the other animals, but also provides services to humans, who depend on the natural resources in these habitats for food, fuel and income.

Additionally, savannas store about 30% of the world’s terrestrial carbon, so protecting these ecosystems could benefit our quest to curb our planet’s overheating.

Fortunately, there are glimmers of hope for rhinos. In November 2023, conservationists welcomed a critically endangered Sumatran rhino baby to a national park in Indonesia. That same month, zookeepers at England’s Chester Zoo cheered the birth of a critically endangered eastern black rhino.

Regarding the rewilding of southern white rhinos: “This is just the start of a long-term partnership with African Parks, where we can play our part in making a tangible contribution to the future of the southern white rhino in Africa” , Damian Aspinall, chairman of WeWild Africa, said in a statement. WeWild Africa is one of many organizations that helped with the first translocation.

Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, added: “The core of the solution and the ultimate success of returning these 2,000 rhino(s) to the wild lies in the existence of safe, well-protected and effectively managed areas throughout Africa, of which the Munywana Conservancy is an excellent example.”

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