Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black rhino relocation launches new rhino sanctuary in Kenya

Ruma National Park 
February 2012. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has successfully completed the last phase of the black rhino translocation from Mugie Rhino sanctuary and Solio Ranch in Laikipia to Ruma National Park. 

The project saw a total of 21 black rhinos introduced into Ruma National Park in two phases. Speaking during the translocation exercise, Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Dr. Noah Wekesa, noted with great concern the magnitude of the escalating poaching and its effect on the critically endangered rhino species. "I want to send a strong message to the poachers that they shall be dealt with severely according to the law," Dr. Wekesa said. He reiterated that his ministry will ensure that the current penalties for wildlife offenders are quickly reviewed and made more punitive to discourage poaching.
Enhance tourism in western Kenya
The introduction of rhinos in the park is seen as a move to enhance tourism in the Western Kenya tourism circuit and unlocking tourism potential in the area. Dr. Wekesa encouraged all players in the tourism sector to invest heavily in the region. He appealed for aggressive marketing of the national park along with other tourism sites like the famous Thim Lich Ohinga ruins, the famous Luo legend, Gor Mahia, Lake Victoria, the rich Luo culture and the Homa Hills hot springs of Simbi Nyaima.
Rhino poaching
The translocation has come at a time when the world is witnessing an increase in the illegal killing of rhinos. A worrying note is the sophistication and the level of organization of illegal traders in the rhino horn. A total of 1,400 rhinos were killed in Africa over the last five years. Of these, seventy were in Kenya mainly to satisfy illegal demand for the horn by some Asian countries.
Ruma rhino sanctuary
Ruma National Park in Nyanza was officially launched as a rhino sanctuary at the end of last year during the first phase of the translocation exercise. This was a historic comeback of rhinos to this area. With a capacity of hosting 85 black rhinos, the last time rhinos were sighted in the Ruma general area was in mid 1950s, more than half a century ago. Black rhino numbers reduced from 20,000 in 1960s to less than 300 by mid 1980s in Kenya mainly due to hunting. 

However, renewed conservation efforts by KWS and other conservation efforts have seen the numbers begin to rise again. The current national total of black rhinos now stands at 620.

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