The rhino population of South Africa is steadily decreasing. According to conservation organisation, Save The Rhino, poaching has sadly led to the deaths of at least 5,940 African rhinos since 2008. This amount increased exponentially from 2007-2015, spreading to neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe, who also reported an increase in poaching deaths.
With time running out for these beloved animals, their survival is becoming increasingly at risk. Despite the best efforts of conservationists to save this endangered species, the poachers are relentless in their pursuit and as such, a new project has begun which will see the relocation of 80 rhinos to Australia.
The Australian Rhino Project will aim to protect and expand the species by transporting the Rhinos through a staggered quarantine process.
Beginning in May this year, the first six rhinos will be transported to their first stage of quarantine in Johannesburg, where they will be housed for two months. Following their successful integration, the group will then be flown to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, where they will remain for another four months before being released into Monarto Zoo’s safari park in Adelaide, South Australia.
The team will aim to relocate a total of 80 rhinos over the next four years.
In an interview with the ABC, the project’s founder, Ray Dearlove spoke about the urgency surrounding the relocation. “There is no safe place in Africa for rhinos today. They’ve become extinct pretty much from the top down to South Africa where probably 85 to 90 percent of the white and black southern rhinos that are left in the world.”
“The situation is dire, there’s an urgency,” he told 666 ABC Canberra Drive.
“If you’re killing three [rhino] a day, doesn’t matter what number you start with, it really is a numbers game.”
The project hopes to mitigate the market for rhino horns in Africa by relocating the animals far enough away that they will be considered untouchable by poachers.
“Poachers can get up to $80,000 a kilogram for a rhino horn,” Mr Dearlove said.
“So an average-sized rhino would have a horn of five kilograms … so there’s $400,000 to $500,000 on the table.
“It’s the same syndicates that move people around, move drugs around, move weapons around … and the return and investment for [rhino horn] is staggering.”
Mr Dearlove acknowledges the huge logistical undertaking but insists that this process is necessary to the survival of the species.
“If you or I don’t do anything about it, who’s going to do something about it?” he said.
“And when they’re gone, who will they blame?”