WAZA helps to save the black rhino

Date: 2011/08/19


Rhino conservation and tourism in Namibia: A new WAZA-branded conservation project


Gland, Switzerland, Thursday 18 August 2011 (WAZA): WAZA supports the Black Rhino Conservation Programme in Namibia, designed and implemented by the WAZA member,  Minnesota Zoo. Conservation efforts are combined with tourism development, in cooperation with the government and the private sector. Conservation of wildlife is not seen as a contradiction to sustainable community development, the project works in support of both.


Between 1970 and 1992 rampant rhino poaching swept across Africa, claiming over 95% of Africa's rhinos. Many of the poachers were local, tempted by lucrative bribes that exceeded a lifetime's earnings. The incentive to poach was compounded by the fact that they had no rights to benefit from or manage the wildlife on their lands, and thus had no real reason to care for it. By the mid-1980s, fewer than 50 black rhinos were believed to still exist in the remote Kunene region of North-west Namibia.

The success and sustainability of the larger vision for securing a future for Namibia's free-ranging black rhino population in Kunene is currently again threatened by the recent surge in poaching in neighboring countries. Further, unregulated rhino-based tourism could act as a double-edged sword by displacing the free-ranging rhinos into at-risk areas while potentially reducing reproductive performance as well as the tourism feasibility.

"This project aims for restoring the rhino population and establishing benefits for the local people by conservation based touristic activities, the only way for achieving success together!" says Dr Gerald Dick, WAZA Executive Director. In collaboration with the Nambian government, Rhino Custodians, private tourism operators and Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), a communal land rhino monitoring was initiated and tourism programmes established.


Objectives of the science advisor's (funded by Minnesota Zoo) responsibilities are:

  • In collaboration with the Nambian government, Rhino Custodians, private tourism operators and SRT, initiate a communal land rhino monitoring and tourism programme;
  • Refine and help implement a new data management system for SRT that will streamline all field data into a standardised protocol to enable more effective and efficient reporting, including rhino monitoring data collected by Rhino Custodians;
  • Develop and promote conservation-based tourism models and approaches related to black rhino;
  • Conduct Rapid Black Rhino Restoration Suitability Assessments within their historical range in the northern Kunene to assist the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in prioritising conservancies for rhino translocations in 2011 and 2012;
  • Conduct GPS/mapping training modules for SRT Trackers and Conservancy Game Guards, for Ministry of Environment and Tourism staff, and for guides working with commercial tourism operators regarding data collection and monitoring; 
  • Help expand the base of support to improve financial self-sufficiency and strengthen SRT's profile and impact at the regional, national and international level.

  This WAZA Conservation Project is implemented by Save the Rhino Trust Namibia, with support provided by Minnesota Zoo. Other stakeholders involved in the project include The Nature Conservancy, Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Communal Conservancies, Wilderness Safaris, Save the Rhino International and US Fish and Wildlife Rhino and Tiger Fund.


Further information on WAZA-branded projects can be found on www.waza.org under "Conservation" or click on the following link: http://www.waza.org/en/site/conservation/waza-conservation-projects/black-rhino-conservation-and-tourism


 Black rhino 1

Fig. 1. Black Rhino © Minnesota Zoo

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Black Rhino 2

Fig. 2. Black Rhino © Minnesota Zoo

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  • Notes to Editors

    The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is a global organisation that harmonises the principles, policies, practices and strategy of over 1,300 leading zoos and aquariums.  WAZA is the unifying representative of the global zoo and aquarium community and works in partnership with IUCN, national governments and non-governmental organisations to ensure high standards of animal welfare and to achieve conservation in zoos and aquariums (ex situ) and in nature (in situ).