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Mombo Camp; Rhino Project

The history of Rhino in Botswana


The White Rhino and the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) occurred in northern Botswana until relatively recently. The Black Rhino seems to have been rare and confined to the Kwando-Chobe areas, but the White Rhino population was widespread and common throughout northern Botswana in the middle of the last century.

As a result of indiscriminate shooting of rhino, mainly by sport hunters, both species were reduced to very low numbers by the 1960s. A re-introduction programme began in 1967 when four White Rhino were introduced from Natal. Between 1974 and 1981, the Botswana Government, with support from Natal Parks Board, re-introduced a total of 71 White Rhino into Chobe National Park and 19 into Moremi Game Reserve. The animals were released directly from the transfer crates; many wandered considerable distances in search of suitable habitat, and some died.

When given the normal rate of increase of this species, the rhino population should have increased to about 200 in 1992 and about 400 today. However, by 1992, it was evident that the majority of the White Rhino population had either died or been killed by illegal hunters. It should be remembered that the 1980s saw a wave of illegal off-take of elephants and rhinos sweeping down from eastern Africa to Zambia, Mozambique and Angola. Botswana, Zimbabwe and, to a lesser extent, South Africa were affected by incursions from these areas and became conduits for the illegal traffic in ivory and rhino horn. As a result, the rhino populations of northern Botswana were greatly reduced.

Botswana plans to conserve the Rhino

 

A survey carried out by the Natal Parks Board in 1992 found only 19 White Rhino. Black Rhino appear to have become extinct by this time. At this stage, the Botswana Government developed a three-stage policy for the conservation of White Rhino:

* To capture as many surviving White Rhino as possible and translocate them to protected sanctuaries such as the Khama Rhino Sanctuary near Serowe and the Mokolodi Private Game Reserve near Gabarone;

* To allow the populations in these sanctuaries to increase, while effective protection was implemented in the national parks and game reserves, through effective law enforcement and the provision of conservation incentives to local communities and other strata of society; and,

* When it is safe to do so, to re-introduce populations of White Rhino from the protected sanctuaries back into the wild in the national parks and game reserves.


Implementation of the first stage of this policy was initiated in 1993, with the capture and translocation of the remaining White Rhino, of which there were four, from the Chobe National Park to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. A sub-adult male subsequently died as a result of gun shot wounds inflicted by illegal hunters prior to capture. Between 1994 and 1996, three more rhino were relocated to the Khama Sanctuary from Moremi Game Reserve, while three remained uncaptured in the area.

In June 1995, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary received five more White Rhino from North West Parks Board of South Africa. There are currently 29 White Rhino held in protected sanctuaries in Botswana, of which 28 are under private management and 1 under Government management. These rhino are located in the following areas:

* Khama Rhino Sanctuary 16
* Mokolodi Private Game Reserve 9
* Gaborone Game Reserve 1
* Gantzi (private game farm) 3

The policy of re-introducing White Rhino to the wild was formalised in an internal strategy paper prepared by the Department of Wildlife