See also:
» 16.10.2009 - SA teams up with neighbours for a clean environment
» 18.09.2009 - SA’s first electric car on display
» 14.11.2008 - SA wildlife paradise "endangered"
» 06.11.2008 - Animal right activists criticise ivory sale in SA
» 03.09.2008 - Battle of flamingo dam - scientists axed
» 06.08.2008 - 18,000 South African seabirds killed annually
» 10.07.2008 - Flamingos under threat in SA
» 11.04.2008 - S. Africa avitourism viable

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South Africa
Environment - Nature

New black rhino reserve approved in South Africa

afrol News, 30 May - South Africa is to get its second-ever reserve for endangered black rhinoceros with establishment of the Zululand Rhino Reserve. Several private property owners have contributed to create an area covering 17,000 hectares, where up to 20 black rhinos will be transported later this year, giving the beasts strongly needed fresh space to breed.

The new reserve is located in the northern part of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. The local environmentalist group Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had approved the reserve's establishment on Friday, a spokesman of the group announced today.

The newly-approved 17,000 hectares area, which is made of up 12 adjoining properties, will be freed from fences within the next months. Later this year, the environmentalists plan to translocate a founder population of 17-20 black rhinos to the reserve, counting on the assistance from WWF, an international conservationist organisation.

- We started putting the idea of creating a single biosphere incorporating the current Zululand Rhino Reserve back in 1998, said Clive Vivier, Chairman of the Zululand Rhino Reserve and owner of Leopard Mountain, which is one of the properties in the consortium. "The Black Rhino Project has been the catalyst that finally welded it all together," he added.

There had been a hurry to establish the reserve while the landscape was still under-exploited, Mr Vivier revealed. "If you look to the north or the south of us, pristine bush has been taken up by monoculture and cattle farming. Our wilderness is disappearing. It is so wrong, and what we are doing with the help of the project is so right."

The project aims at increasing numbers of black rhino by making more land available for them, thus reducing pressure on existing reserves and providing new territory in which they can breed. Black rhino, which used to be the most numerous rhinoceros species in the world, became critically endangered following a poaching wave in the 1970s and 1980s which saw 96 percent of the population in Africa wiped out. At the lowest point, there were just 2,500 black rhino left.

Thanks to intensive protection efforts by various environmentalist groups and governments, that number has gradually increased to around 3,600. "Our responsibility is to increase numbers of black rhino and we recognise the value of partnerships with other sectors to help us achieve this goal," noted Khulani Mkhize, CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Breeding reserves dedicated to rhinos earlier have proven successful to achieve this aim. "The success of the first release of 15 black rhino in 2004 at Mun-ya-Wana Game Reserve has given us real confidence in this innovative and bold approach," commented WWF's project leader, Jacques Flamand.

At the Mun-ya-Wana Game Reserve, the resettled animals had "settled extremely well into their new home," Mr Flamand added. "There have been no losses through fights or accident and mating have been observed so we are looking forward to the prospect of lots of calves. As the idea of the project is to increase the growth rate of the overall black rhino population in KwaZulu-Natal, this is very promising," he explained.

In the new Zululand Rhino Reserve, environmentalists had identified large pieces of land with an ecological carrying capacity of 50 or more black rhinos on which a founder population could be released. To reach this, neighbouring landowners usually have to remove internal fences and consolidate smaller pieces of land into more ecologically viable blocks, something they had agreed to.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and WWF further announced they were looking for new "strategic partnerships with landholders" to establish more rhino breeding reserves in KwaZulu-Natal. "They need not have been traditionally involved in conservation and we are currently in negotiations with community landholders whose land could become future project sites," revealed Dr Flamand.

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