The latest from the natural world
Kenya holds the world’s third-largest black rhino population after South Africa and Namibia. According to the IUCN, populations of the Eastern black rhino plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting.
However, conservation efforts have managed to stabilise and increase numbers in most of the black rhino’s former ranges since then. Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimated 640. It is projected to rise in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations.
The survival of the rhino in the longer term will depend on good science, intensified protection, sustained monitoring, community engagement and learning from previous problems. Kenya’s conservation efforts have undergone a major change, with local communities taking charge of protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino.
At least 20 pre-selected, critically endangered, black rhinos have been moved from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi and reintroduced to a native habitat. The candidates earmarked for translocation ranged from six to 20 years old. This is to reflect natural demographics and encourage natural breeding conditions. All animals were fitted with satellite-based transmitters for close monitoring. The community rangers have been trained by Lewa and KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, bushcraft and effective patrolling – and will have the back- up of the Lewa, NRT and KWS Anti-Poaching Units.
Each year populations of blue wildebeest undertake a long-distance migration, seemingly timed to coincide with the annual pattern of rainfall and grass growth. While having the appearance of a frenzy, research shows that a herd of wildebeest possess what is known as ‘swarm intelligence’, whereby the animals systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one. Major predators that feed on wildebeest include the lion, hyena, cheetah, leopard, and crocodile. The primary defensive tactic is herding, where the young animals are protected by the older, larger ones, while the herd runs as a group. Wildebeest have developed additional sophisticated cooperative behaviours, such as animals taking turns sleeping while others stand guard against a night attack by invading predators.
Wildebeest give birth on open plains as ‘maternity wards’, avoiding thickets and woodlands where predators abound. The calves gain their feet faster than any other ungulate, standing within three to five minutes.
“There is no room for doubt: wildlife and forest crime is serious and calls for an equally serious response. In addition to the breach of the international rule of law and the impact on peace and security, environmental crime robs countries of revenues that could have been spent on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.”
Mr Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP in a United Nations report on wildlife crime.