The Southern White Rhinos
Just over a hundred years ago the southern white rhinos were on the verge of complete extinction, with less than 20 rhinos remaining. Hunting by Dutch and English settlers had taken a devastating toll.
In 1895, the area of these rhinos, which is now Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park in South Africa, officially became a protected zone. After rebounding slightly, by the mid 20th century additional measures were taken.
Operation Rhino: The operation was headed by Dr. Ian Player. Breeding groups of rhino were captured and relocated. They were moved to Kruger National Park, private reserves, and even zoos. The goal was to reestablish viable populations. It worked.
By 1960 there were 650 southern white rhinos, by 2010 there were 18,800. Today’s current population estimates are at 20,000.
As a game warden, Dr. Player worked tirelessly to relocate rhinos. Among his many accomplishments, he established a successful anti-poaching network in South African game reserves which resulted in an impressive reduction in poaching. His efforts were the root of the success for today’s ecotourism in South Africa.
Kruger National Park appears to be attempting the same strategy for the black and white rhinos today. Relocation of rhinos to private reserves, and neighboring countries seems a logical, albeit costly and difficult maneuver.
It is a daily saga that leaves us angry, heartbroken, but always hopeful.
What Has History Taught Us?
1.There will always be hunters, poachers and greedy, short-sighted men.
2. There are not enough Ian Players in the world, but in the right time and place they surface to achieve insurmountable things. They are here to teach us. By this teaching, we know it IS possible to save the rhino.
So ultimately it is up to us. The poachers will not go away, but neither will the people who want to protect wildlife. Their future is undoubtedly in our hands. For those of us trying to right the ship, Ian Player’s spirit is is alive in us and together we have more than a fighting chance at saving our rhinos.
“Conservation is not a plaything, or a luxury, or something new. It is survival” -Dr. Ian Player