Figure 12. Flow chart illustrating components of the pre-translocation planning phase.
Translocation and reintroduction are costly in terms of financial, human or material resources, politically sensitive and after providing protection, arguably the most important management tool for conservation of rhino. To ensure effective and efficient operations, scientifically based planning pre-translocation is the key to success.
Many issues need to be considered before proceeding with a translocation. These include:
careful consideration of the justification of the proposed translocation. This step is especially important where a feasibility study is needed to determine whether or not a project should proceed as planned, whether to wait until further information is obtained, or necessary security or infrastructure is in place etc., or whether or not the plan should be terminated;
defining the overall objectives of the proposed translocation;
assessing the impact of removing animals and need to remove animals from donor populations;
deciding how many and where animals should be removed from in each donor population;
determining the ages and sexes and in some cases the specific animals that need to be removed;
determining suitable release sites and specific areas for release based on screening and assessing habitat quality, estimated medium-term ecological carrying capacity (ECC), security and management capacity in potential recipient areas;
selecting an appropriate translocation approach (e.g. field to field, boma to field, boma to boma) with this determining infrastructure (e.g. will bomas be required in the release area?);
setting up logistical coordination and planning mechanisms;
sorting out any socio-political issues in advance;
sorting out any legal and permit issues in advance;
deciding on timings of capture and introductions;
ensuring that sufficient budgets, skilled manpower (with rhino capture experience using specialist rhino veterinarians/rhino capture officers and dedicated rhino capture teams), capture vehicles and crates, helicopters (in case of African species), koonkie elephants (in case of greater one-horned rhino), pit traps (in case of Sumatran rhino), transponders, radio-transmitters, bomas, etc. are all in place in the short term for the capture, transport, boma and immediate post-release phases, but are also in place for the necessary protection, monitoring and biological management which will be required well into the future.
One of the first decisions that should be made is how many animals need to be translocated from source populations each year to maintain rapid growth rates. Desirable offtake levels will depend on the accepted and recommended harvesting strategy continentally, regionally and nationally.
African rhino conservation plans, strategies and policies (whether they are at a continental, regional or national level) have set minimum metapopulation growth targets of at least 5% per annum and sometimes higher (Kenya strategy 2007 ~ 6% in selected target populations). These minimum target growth rates are well below the suspected longer term R max (maximum sustainable per capita rate of increase) of around 9% for African rhino. Hopefully metapopulation growth will exceed these minimum target levels. This invariably requires actively managing some established populations for more rapid growth.
Park managers are often fearful of over-harvesting their populations and historically, donor populations have tended to be under-harvested with negative consequences for metapopulation performance (Goodman, 2001). This cautionary approach is not a “safe” approach but is likely to jeopardize the achievements of national goals, and is unjustified (Goodman, 2001). The no action equals low risk trap is one managers must conscientiously avoid (Goodman, 2001).
In larger populations, IUCN SSC AfRSG, SADC RMG and SADC RPRC recommend that “Set % Harvesting” should be implemented once rhino densities exceed 50% of Estimated Ecological Carrying Capacity [ECC] (Emslie, 2001). Removals should on average be at least 5% per annum over time, but not more than 8%4 (Emslie, 2001; Goodman 2001). Larger removals can be undertaken 1 year with no removals over the next 2–3 years provided the offtake still averages at least 5%/annum (e.g. 15% in year 1 and no removals in years 2 and 3). With set percentage harvesting, correctly estimating ECC is less important than when seeking to manage populations at or below 75% of ECC. Theoretically a population's density should adjust to the level that can sustain the set % annual offtake to a level where births balance out those animals removed (Caughley, 1977; Goodman, 2001). What this means is that theoretically (all else being equal), if one only removes 2% per annum one cannot expect to achieve more than 2% underlying growth in the longer term. Sub-optimal performance following a period of conservative removals is therefore to be expected. Densities should also adjust under Set % Harvesting in response to any changes in underlying ECC. Annual offtakes under Set % Harvesting are also likely to vary less than under a strategy of managing populations at or below 75% of ECC (Goodman, 2001).
When harvesting for growth from small populations mangers should either seek to maintain populations at or below 75% of estimated ECC or undertake Set % Harvesting but only removing animals every 2–3 years (e.g. 15% every 3 years, which would approximate 5% per annum).
An exception to the above recommendations occurs in arid areas with highly variable rainfall (CV >30%) and in Africa this is usually in areas with rainfall <400mm. Populations in such areas will rather tend towards some saturation density during wet periods, without ever attaining it before drought conditions ensue, limiting numbers. In such cases the concept of a fixed carrying capacity becomes meaningless (Owen-Smith, 2001). Instead offtake levels should be set relative to estimated ECC during low rainfall periods.
While medium-term ECC estimates are at best approximate rather than precise figures, they still can be practically useful in helping guide and inform offtake decision-making (if managing rhino populations at or below 75% of estimated ECC as well as to help decide when stocking rates have exceeded 50% of ECC and one should start Set % Harvesting). Such estimates are also useful for assessing the potential of new areas for black rhino re-establishment (including setting a desirable upper founder number in relation to ECC).
Population performance indicators and population estimates derived every 1–3 years (preferably annually) should be reviewed and interpreted both at a park and country/ metapopulation level. Such comparative analyses can help highlight under-performing populations which might need to have their rhino densities reduced to improve their underlying performance.
Savanna habitats can be very dynamic and habitat quality (and ECC) can decline rapidly following successive changes, increases in alien plants or negative impacts on food plants following large rises in numbers of competitor species. To avoid declines in underlying rhino performance, consideration may need to be given to temporarily increasing rhino offtake levels and/or reducing competitor densities (Brett & Adcock, 2002; Adcock et al. (in prep), Emslie & du Toit, 2006; Okita-Ouma et al., 2007, 2008a,b). Under Set % Harvesting rhino populations should eventually stabilize at a new lower level that can sustain that level of harvesting. However, in instances where ECC is declining rapidly it may take time for underlying performance to increase without increased removals of rhinos and/or competitors.
Given high human densities and extensive settlement, sufficiently large areas of suitable and secure habitat for range expansion are more limited in many areas of Asia than in Africa. Thus opportunities to aggressively biologically manage rhino populations for rapid growth (as is being done in many African range states) are more limited in Asia.
Nevertheless, where possible, translocation to suitable new areas should be considered in Asia (such as was done in Nepal and is being planned in Assam) in the expectation of increasing underlying performance in long-established source populations which may be showing signs of density dependent declines in performance, as well as achieving rapid growth rates in re-established populations, and in the process increasing range and overall rhino numbers and metapopulation performance. This should be continued until viable and optimal founder populations are established in new areas even if there are declines or losses after initial translocations due to unforeseen circumstances as experienced in Nepal (Bardia National Park and Suklaphanta National Reserve) provided the reasons for the declines e.g. temporary breakdown in law and order and security are no longer a threat to translocated rhinos.
Strategically using translocation to increase the range and number of rhino populations is wise as this reduces risks compared to having all or most of a subspecies in only one or a very small number of populations (e.g. having only one confirmed breeding population of Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon).
The role of other factors such as poaching, heavy grazing and disturbance in some buffer zone areas (e.g. around Chitwan National Park), increases in invasive alien plants, and or the possible negative impact of potential competitors (such as Banteng in Ujung Kulon? or Impala and Nyala in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Ndumo Game Reserve) may also need to be considered when developing a strategy to grow rhino numbers rapidly.
Established populations whose population densities have increased to the level that is approaching or have reached/exceeded estimated ECC are ideal candidates to supply rhino5. Monitoring of a number of indicators (underlying growth rate, average age at first calving, average inter-calving interval, ratio of calf numbers to adult females, average adult (>7 years) female months per calf born6, mortality rates from fighting, increased amounts of unpalatable foods being eaten [if data are available to assess changes in rhino diets over time] etc.) can indicate whether or not a population is performing poorly and may be suffering from density dependent reduced performance. By reducing densities of rhinos and other potential competitors in such parks, one can free up more quality food for remaining females, and hopefully improve reproductive performance (Adcock et al. in prep; Brett & Adcock, 2002; Emslie & du Toit, 2006; Okita-Ouma et al., 2008a,b). However it is preferable to be proactive and start removing rhino (and possibly also other competing species) to reduced densities before one starts observing declines in performance. (Figure 13).
Figure 13. (A) Satellite Image of Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary (image credit Keryn Adcock) and (B) inside the sanctuary showing the negative impact that a build up of elephant and black rhino had on woody vegetation. These changes coincided with a decline in black rhino breeding performance (Okita-Ouma et al., 2007). The elephants have since been removed, the sanctuary expanded and black rhino density reduced (Okita-Ouma et al., 2008a & b) in an effort to increase the productivity of this population. (Photo credit: Richard Kock)
National or organisational conservation plans and biological management policies may specify or recommend when populations should be harvested and how many rhinos should be removed. For example, the SADC RMG recommends that larger populations with densities in excess of 50% of ECC should be harvested using a set % harvesting strategy with a minimum annual offtake of 5% of the population; or that smaller populations should be kept at, or preferably below, 75% of estimated ECC (Emslie, 2001).
Aside from genetic management considerations, populations with densities below 50% of ECC should be left alone to grow.
Countries and conservation agencies with plans and policies may have formal committees which meet annually to assess removals in terms of both how many animals should be removed from parks and also where they should be translocated to.
To promote long-term genetic viability, geneticists advise that a rhino should be translocated between areas every 10–20 years to introduce new blood.
One of the biggest mistakes decision-makers can make is to develop a “fortress” mentality when animals are being protected and conserved in fenced sanctuaries. If rhino numbers have increased to the stage that the underlying performance of the rhinos is likely to be compromised or is already suffering through factors, such as increased male fighting, long inter-calving intervals and higher juvenile mortalities), then any reluctance to remove some animals from the safety of the fenced sanctuary will ultimately reduce metapopulation performance further. Where black rhinos have to be reintroduced in stages, to reduce the risk of fighting-related mortalities, successive founder groups can initially be released into a number of adjoining sanctuaries with a view to removing fences once all the rhinos have settled and become familiar with each other through the fences. Keeping animals inside these temporary sanctuaries for longer than planned due to a fear of releasing animals may have negative consequences for rhinos if the ‘temporary’ sanctuaries are not large enough.
One of the most critical decisions to make is where to invest rhinos to relocate for biological management and/or strategic reasons. There usually are a range of possible options, and in order to make an informed decision it is necessary to undertake full assessment of potential areas (Emslie, 1993).
The assessment of potential recipient areas should evaluate both non-ecological criteria (e.g. security, socio-politics, veterinary issues, fencing, ease of future translocation, whether sustainable funding is in place for future management, security of land tenure) as well as ecological assessments pertaining to habitat quality and estimated ECC for the area and whether the area falls within the natural range for the subspecies.
Assessments should be undertaken by experts in the relevant fields, such as rhino security or rhino ECC estimation.
If a conservation department or agency is going to undertake many translocations it may be useful for it to develop their own reserve assessment forms. For example, Ezemvelo-KZN-Wildlife, South African National Parks and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism have developed their own property/reserve assessment forms to help evaluate potential black rhino areas requesting or bidding for rhinos for reintroduction. These documents usually set minimum standards, such as minimum ECC (in terms of estimated rhino numbers the area could hold), fencing requirements and/or minimum manpower densities for law enforcement range staff. A comparison of the results of these assessments can be used to make a decision on where rhinos should go. These assessments can also be used to determine whether or not properties pass minimum standards to be allowed to receive donated rhino or bid for/buy rhino.
To facilitate comparison between different sized areas it is important to define ECC and rhino stocking rates are expressed in terms of densities (usually as rhinos/km2 but sometimes as km2/rhino), rather than simply number of rhinos.
Assessments may identify a potential area, but may conclude that certain actions are needed before translocation should go ahead (for example current security manpower densities and reserve infrastructure may not be sufficient and/or bomas or release sanctuary fencing incomplete). If a reserve for some reason is not ready to receive rhinos they should not be translocated until such problems have been rectified.
Ideally, managers should strive to introduce at least 20 unrelated founders into areas with the potential to grow to at least 50 rhino. To ensure room for growth, new areas should not be stocked more than about 40% of ECC. Thus, if the estimated ECC of an area is 0.1 rhinos/km2 (or 10 km2/rhino) and the aim is to introduce 20 founders, the area should be at least 500 km2 (i.e. an area to hold at least 50 rhinos (ECC) would need to be a size of 50/0.1 or 50*10 km2).
Countries should preferentially seek to establish larger populations rather than smaller ones as post-release mortality rates appear to be lower when bigger groups are introduced (Brett, 1988; Linklater & Swaisgood, 2008).
Smaller groups of rhinos can be introduced into smaller areas but this should only be done if a metapopulation management structure is in place. In this scenario, much more expensive manipulative population management will be required in future, such as introduction of new blood and removal of animals to prevent fathers mating with daughters. Care must be taken to ensure that small reserves are not overstocked with founders relative to their ECC.
Rapid expert assessments (1–2 days) per reserve must be undertaken as a minimum for initial screening. Such exercises can quickly identify and rule out unsuitable areas. However, for major introductions a more thorough assessment is usually recommended.
Black rhino are apparently genetically tolerant of exposure to tsetse fly and trypanosomosis7 and suffer no disease unless they have been isolated from the parasite for a long period and are suddenly exposed or suffer stress and/or induced immunosuppression (Okita-Ouma, Amin & Kock, 2007). This occurs where populations occur in disease-free zones, such as highlands, i.e. Laikipia Plateau (Foose et al., 1992), and animals from these areas are translocated to infected areas (e.g. Tsavo National Park) without consideration of the potential risks (Kock et al., 1999; Mihok et al., 1992). Irrespective of their origin, given exposure the animals adapt within a few weeks and show normal resistance to infection. This usually involves slow exposure of the translocated animals to the disease in their new home, initially by reducing density of the carrier tsetse fly around the release bomas and release area (using tsetse traps or chemical targets). Immediate high exposure through, for example, misplacement of release bomas in dense tsetse infested bush can result in mortality. On the other hand there is high susceptibility of southern white rhino to trypanosomosis caused by T. brucei which is prevalent in East Africa and not South Africa; whereas they appear to be reasonably tolerant to local trypanosome species in southern Africa. This is perhaps not surprising and there is no indication that reducing the infection challenge will lead to resistance as translocated animals have died some months after controlled exposure in Kenya (Kock et al., 2007).
Consideration should also be given to the possible effects that differences between the habitats, soil nutrient status and or rainfall of recipient and potential donor areas may have on the success of translocations. For example, rainfall in East Africa varies from under 400mm to 1000mm per year, resulting in long periods of vegetation growth in some areas and shorter periods of prime vegetation growth in other areas. Translocating rhinos from a high rainfall zone to a lower rainfall zone was observed to affect animal health and adaptation in Ol Jogi Ranch, Kenya. Similarly, it may take time for black rhino translocated from nutrient rich succulent habitats, such as the Great Fish River Reserve to adapt to local browse conditions in more nutrient poor miombo habitats, such as North Luangwa N.P. Work is currently underway to test the hypothesis that it is not possible for black rhino females to build up condition as quickly after giving birth in nutrient poor areas, leading to increased inter-calving intervals and hence reduced population growth rates. If this is proven to be the case, and all else being equal, then animals should preferentially be translocated to nutrient rich habitats if there is a choice between a nutrient rich and nutrient poor recipient area.
Different countries have different laws and policies in terms of whether community or private ownership and/or custodianship management of wildlife is allowed, and these have some bearing on rhino translocation options in terms of where surplus rhino can be invested.
The majority of rhinos in Africa are still conserved in parks run by formal state conservation agencies (69.9%in 2007 down from 75.6% in 1999 AfRSG data).
Where private ownership of rhinos is not permitted, the private sector or local communities can still play an important role in assisting state conservation agencies conserve rhinos on a custodianship basis. Irrespective of whether or not all rhinos remain the property of the state, the private sector in particular, and increasingly also communities, are playing an important role in assisting state conservation agencies in Africa conserve rhinos. Even where private ownership of rhinos is permitted, the state may choose to enter into some form of custodianship arrangement to ensure rhinos go to the best habitat available and usually to larger areas and not to smaller private properties that can afford to buy rhinos and only satisfy minimum criteria.
Strategically having rhinos under different management models can spread risk. For example, there have been times in the past in Zimbabwe and Kenya where private sector managed reserves performed better than state run parks during periods of heavy poaching pressure.
The rest of this section summarises the main pros and cons of different rhino ownership and custodianship management models (as outlined by du Toit & Emslie (2006), quoted extensively in sections 1.4.4.x below).
220.127.116.11 Private ownership
Pros and cons of management under a private ownership model include the following.
Budgets for many privately run conservation operations may be significantly higher (per km2) than in state-run parks, facilitating high-class protection, monitoring and management.
Private sector involvement can wholly, or in collaboration with the state, fund and assist with the translocation and re-establishment of rhinos in a country.
On the negative side, depending upon the nature of contracts entered into, the state will have less influence over how rhinos are managed when under the ownership of the private sector compared to those being managed on a custodianship basis.
Rhinos may end up being sold to the highest bidder, not necessarily to the reserve or park with the best potential for future population growth, and sometimes to the detriment of genetic diversity. Therefore if rhinos are to be sold to the private sector they should only be sold to reserves with good potential for biological growth.
18.104.22.168 Custodianship arrangements
A custodianship scheme refers to a situation where rhinos are allocated to a wildlife operation (which may be a private reserve, a community reserve or even one that is under the control of another wildlife management authority in a different province, state or country) without transferring ownership of the rhinos to that operation. The question of future rights, such as ownership of progeny, is dealt within in different ways according to national legislation and policies. In some situations (e.g. in KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa), a state or provincial rhino management authority might retain ownership of all founder rhino but agree to share the progeny (and any benefits derived from them) being managed by private sector or communal custodians. In countries where legislation permits private ownership of rhinos, the private owners may sometimes have reason to allocate some of their rhinos according to a custodianship arrangement (for instance, if sale prices are poor or if an owner chooses a deal that shares progeny while retaining a claim on the founder animals).
Pros of custodianship schemes (from the perspective of a state or provincial management authority) include:
Rhino range can be increased at no additional cost to the state.
Rhino populations can grow rapidly after being re-established on custodianship properties or communal land with space to expand.
By letting private land owners and/or communities bear all or most of the costs of protecting and monitoring custodianship rhinos on their land, state conservation agencies are able to concentrate their (sometimes limited) resources in their own rhino parks allowing them to better conserve rhinos in state run parks.
Unlike sales to the highest bidder, the state can decide to allocate surplus rhinos on a custodianship basis to areas with optimum rhino conservation potential (rather than to those that merely have the most money).
Budgets for many privately-run conservation operations may be significantly higher than in state-run parks, facilitating high-class protection, monitoring and management.
Private sector involvement can wholly, or in collaboration with the state, fund and assist with the translocation and re-establishment of rhinos in a country.
If the state agency specifies minimum carrying capacities for areas to receive substantial founder groups of rhino on a custodianship basis, this can act as a catalyst for neighbouring landholders to take down fences and cooperate to create larger more viable conservation areas for rhino reintroductions which can take 20+ founders. This process, catalysed by rhinos as the “flagship species”, can create significant opportunities for other aspects of biodiversity conservation and can induce economies of scale in wildlife management.
A contract drawn up between the state and custodian can stipulate the responsibilities of the custodian (e.g. monitoring and reporting requirements) and may specify that the state is within its rights to take the rhinos out in response to a failure to meet the conditions of the contract.
Public sector finance laws in a country may prohibit or make difficult the giving away of state assets to the private sector/communities. By retaining ownership of founder rhinos donated under a custodianship agreement (but perhaps sharing the offspring with private sector/communities) and retaining the right to withdraw these founder animals the state agency can ensure it does not fall foul of such laws.
However there are a number of cons with custodianship schemes:
Under a straight custodianship scheme, landowners have all the expenses and a more limited range of use options than if they owned the rhinos.
Custodianship properties in some countries may not have a large carrying capacity necessitating many small rhino populations fragmented over different properties. This fragmented situation requires expensive and active hands-on management, to prevent inbreeding and overstocking; which a conservation agency may increasingly struggle to afford as the need for interventions and number of custodianship populations increases.
If there are many different and smaller custodianship populations in a country, this may place an additional administrative management burden on a state conservation agency.
Custodians sometimes argue against necessary rhino management actions such as de-stocking or dehorning (in the face of a poaching threat) thus creating friction within the national rhino conservation programme. Therefore, the custodianship agreements need to be formally concluded between the parties, and it is critically important that at the outset of each restocking project agreements should be very clear about who has ultimate management control and custodians should be warned that once densities have built up rhinos are likely to be removed in future in an attempt to keep populations productive. Usually such agreements are in the form of a formal legal contract between the state agency and custodian.
Potentially reduced revenues for those state or provincial conservation agencies that are allowed to retain revenues from business activities (as founder animals not sold).
22.214.171.124 Large Conservancies
Significant potential areas for rhino conservation in African can be created where private land owners or communities on communal land form conservancies (du Toit & Emslie, 2006).
Ideally this has involved the consolidation of a number of smaller areas into one large area (with any internal fencing between properties being taken down).
Rhinos have been the catalyst to help develop large conservancies in Zimbabwe (e.g. Save Valley), South Africa (e.g. Mun-ya-Wana) and Namibia (e.g. in the Kunene region). By cooperating and creating a larger potential area for rhinos, conservancies may then become eligible to receive black rhinos to manage on behalf of the state (when previously their component areas may have each individually not been big enough to qualify to receive even a small breeding group of rhinos). The idea is also gaining currency in Kenya at least in planning although the term has been used, perhaps incorrectly, to describe single properties in that country.
Donor support can be allocated in ways that exert maximum leverage for the creation of these larger areas, in place of smaller, fenced-off units (du Toit, 1998). In a straight conservancy arrangement, the landowner has the opportunity to obtain rhinos without having to buy them. Depending on the prevailing land-use, this may or may not have an ecotourism benefit.
More recently, in KwaZulu-Natal, a modified form of custodianship arrangement has been developed whereby the founder rhinos remain the property of the state conservation agency that supplied them, but subsequent offspring and any benefits derived (e.g. from their subsequent sale etc. are shared with the landowner. In this way the state becomes the part “owner” of more rhinos and private landowners have an increased incentive, based on the potential sale of some of the progeny, to breed the rhinos up rapidly.
126.96.36.199 Contractual park arrangements (for expansion of rhino range)
Contractual parks can be a win-win option for the state (to increase the size of its National Parks), and for the private sector and/or communities (who then become part of a larger conservation area). Following negotiations and the signing of a contract between the state conservation authority and the other parties, additional areas can be contractually incorporated into existing national parks (e.g. the Greater Kruger National Park and Greater Addo Elephant National Park). The contract is likely to specify future management practices, requirements and responsibilities (security, monitoring, allowable tourism, sustainable use practices, etc.) on the private/community land, which will then acquire official park status. The development of contractual parks may be the most feasible and cost effective option available to link existing formal conservation areas, and to create much larger contiguous areas of wildlife habitat which could in time hold significant Key-rated8 rhino populations.
This mechanism can therefore create additional rhino conservation areas with the highest possible protection under law. The taking down of boundary fences has resulted in five private reserves and two other state run reserves to the west of Kruger National Park being joined with KNP creating a larger Greater Kruger conservation area. The taking down of western boundary fences has also allowed more East-West movement of game. The expanded Greater Kruger National Park now conserves the world's largest white rhino population and second largest black rhino population.
188.8.131.52 Buffer zone management model (community forests etc)
Areas around unfenced National Parks and Game Reserves may be declared as community forests, Buffer Zone Management Areas, Game Management Areas (GMA)/community use areas/ hunting reserves etc. Such areas can help provide habitat for any surplus rhinos that move into them. The presence of rhinos in such areas may help generate income for communities through ecotourism; and such buffer zone communities may also receive a share of the money which has been generated by the Park itself (e.g. around Chitwan National Park in Nepal) although in practice this is rarely the case and monies are often “captured” by local authorities preventing benefit reaching individual community members. Such areas can also be patrolled and act as a first line of defence when protecting rhinos in the core of the National Park (e.g. in GMAs around North Luangwa NP in Zambia).
In keeping with the strategic approach of metapopulation management, spreading both the burden and the risk, it is desirable that a certain number of rhinos of more common subspecies are maintained within ex situ (outside the region) captive-breeding programmes. However, these programmes must be regionally or internationally coordinated to ensure metapopulation management amongst a number of zoos (such as the North American Species Survival Programme or European Zoo Rhino Taxon Advisory Group ). Linkages with these international programmes and their member zoos can and should result in the generation of conservation funding and other support for the areas from which rhinos are sourced (Emslie & du Toit, 2006).
Rhinos in zoos and safari parks can also act as ambassadors for the species outside of range states, and can be used to educate the public about the plight of rhinos. Captive breeding/ intensive management institutions and associations (such as the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the International Rhino Foundation, Zoological Society of London, Frankfurt Zoological Society, the American Zoo Association, Chester Zoo and others) are increasingly providing funds and technical support to assist in situ conservation efforts in Africa and Asia.
However there is very little rationale for intensive captive or semi-captive rhino breeding programmes in Africa because of a number of problems that can arise, and the fact that invariably wild populations have performed far better for less money (Emslie & du Toit, 2007). The same principle should also hold for Asian species. For example, attempts to breed Sumatran rhinos at captive breeding centres have not been successful, and for various reasons mortality rates have been high. Alternatively, if it were possible to simply fence and protect a large enough area and stock it with captured outlier rhinos, we would likely see a better return in terms of rhino growth for a probably lower overall cost.
While a very small number of captive rhinos have been successfully reintroduced to the wild, in general this is a very expensive option, and caution should be taken with regard to introducing diseases, which could seriously compromise the health of potential/actual Key and Important rated rhino populations in the wild (Osofsky et al., 2001). Disease risks need to be considered on a case by case basis before proceeding. Currently, shortage of founder black rhino is the primary factor limiting regional rhino re-introductions and range expansion. Captive breeding institutions may start to play a more important role in future by providing surplus rhinos to aid wild re-stocking programmes. Disease issues and problems associated with getting naïve captive animals back to living in the wild may mean that such animals may be translocated to a dedicated “back to the wild” breeding reserve and the wild-born offspring used to provide future founder animals.
Once it has been decided how many rhinos should be removed it is necessary to determine which specific animals are to be removed, or at least the desirable age and sex structure of animals to be removed. Managers need to consider not only the desirable composition of the founder group to be introduced but also how best to harvest to avoid negatively affecting the sex and age structure and subsequent performance of the source population.
The spatial spread of removals across a reserve also needs to be considered so that easily accessible or prime habitat areas are not over-harvested and other areas left relatively untouched.
In some instances security considerations or the application of a process-based management dispersal sink strategy (e.g. as is undertaken for white rhino in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park) may make it desirable to selectively harvest more rhinos in boundary or other vulnerable areas of parks.
In order to make up the total number of founders, rhinos may need to be sourced from more than one population. Indeed, having rhinos from different populations may increase initial genetic diversity of the founder population and be highly desirable. For example, the Manas Indian rhino population is to be re-established using founders sourced from both Kaziranga National Park and Pabitora Wildlife Reserve and populations stocked with black rhino from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa invariably have included stock derived from both historical source populations (Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and uMkhuze). Many of the initial black rhino populations in Kenya were sourced from a wide area, usually remnants in heavily poached localities e.g. Nairobi and Nakuru National Park, Solio and Lewa Ranch (Okita-Ouma, Amin & Kock, 2007). Reintroduced black rhino populations in Swaziland and Kruger National Park have included founder rhinos from both Zimbabwe and KwaZulu-Natal.
When translocating black rhinos in particular, ideally all founder rhinos should be translocated at once or over a short period to minimise the increased chances of fighting mortalities that can occur when (as a result of staggered reintroductions over time) additional rhinos are released into areas with established resident rhinos. Staggered releases of black rhino can be done successfully using temporary fences (e.g. as was done for black rhino in Mkhaya, Swaziland, and is being done in North Luangwa National Park, Zambia). However the latter is a more expensive option and if animals are kept restricted for too long (Figure 14) there may be exhaustion or deterioration of available quality browse and loss of condition amongst the translocated animals, as experienced in 2005–2006 in Meru National Park, Kenya.
Figure 14. Low electrified fencing used to make the temporary sancturaries into which successive groups of founder black rhino were reintroduced to North Luangwa National Park, Zambia, as part of a staggered reintroduction (Photo credit: Elsabe Van der Westhuizen, FZS).
While it is not desirable or cost effective to translocate old animals, managers should not compromise breeding performance of donor populations through a marked bias in the sex or age of animals removed, which may change the age sex structure of the donor population unfavourably. Removals with a 50:50 sex ratio are usually preferred but in smaller founder groups of, for example, only six animals, four females and two males are usually preferred, however this may leave surplus males in the donor population. Occasional movement of old, presumed sterile, female rhino has resulted in stimulation of breeding through alteration in social structure and bonding. This occurred with two sister southern white rhino in Solio Ranch Kenya, one of which was moved to Nakuru National Park. These animals were over 30 years old when moved and one has produced a calf, passing on valuable genetic characteristics. These females were above average body size and had remarkably large horns (R. Kock, pers. obs.).
Greater one-horned rhino founder populations historically have been skewed 3:1 in favour of females as this will promote rapid breeding in the recipient population. This strategy may have little negative impact if the number of rhinos removed is very small relative to the size of the donor population. However, this markedly skewed removal policy is not recommended in the long term (especially if translocations become common place as they are in Africa) as the sex structure of the donor population will be negatively impacted over time.
It has been suggested that a 1:4 male female sex ratio should be selected for Javan rhinos but before taking such a markedly skewed founder population from the key Ujung Kulon donor population the authority needs to be sure that the sex structure of the donor population will not be negatively affected. Population modeling could be used to evaluate the relative merits of alternative removal sex ratios seen in terms of the whole metapopulation.
It is important that captured animals are correctly aged. Standards exist to age African rhinos on the basis of body size, horn shape and size and teeth wear and patterns (Hitchins, 1970; Emslie, Adcock & Hansen, 1995; Adcock et.al., 1997; Adcock & Emslie, 2003; Morkel & Kennedy-Benson, 2007). Aging of greater one-horned rhino is based on relative body size.
An experienced rhino capture officer or wildlife vet should be present to examine the teeth of animals prior to deciding whether to release or translocate on the basis of approximate age. If a tooth-ageing series is available then capture vets should carry a laminated copy with them in the field.
Sexing of Javan and Sumatran rhino is difficult from sightings and usually requires a visual observation of urination. Current knowledge of sex ratios of these species is poor, which makes animal selection harder. Sexing greater one-horned rhino (except for the adult bulls) is also difficult due to the thick skin folds. The presence of a calf is a significant clue, but this may result in biased sex ratio estimates. Observers also need to be careful not to jump to conclusions when two older animals are seen together, as sometimes the suspected adult cow and large calf observed at a distance turns out on closer inspection to be an adult bull and smaller cow.
In the case of black rhino, it has been hypothesized that social disruption and/or possible slow dispersal into over-harvested areas, coupled with a failure to reduce rhino browsing in other under or zero-harvested areas could contribute to reduced population performance in a larger park. Therefore black rhino capture should be spread over the whole removal area to avoid leaving residual areas of high density and creating low density zones, and in the process causing significant social disruption. This does not mean capture has to be evenly spread over each km2 in a reserve, as some sites will be more suitable and accessible for capture than others. Rather, removals should be spread within the context of the scale of rhino movements and home-range sizes in a reserve.
In the case of white rhino, in larger fenced reserves it might be highly desirable to use a sink removal strategy to create low-density zones into which surplus animals can disperse (simulating the natural regulatory process of dispersal) while leaving other areas un-harvested (Owen-Smith, 1981; 1983). In certain cases it may be desirable to locate sink removal areas around the periphery of parks and other areas at increased risk from poaching, as has been done in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa.
A vet experienced in rhino health should be a part of the team which selects the potential translocate. If the vet considers the rhino not suitable for translocation, either before or during capture, owing to health or injury, the vet should be empowered to make the final decision on the fate of the animal. In the case of the greater one-horned rhino there is a need to establish condition scoring to assist in health assessment.
“Stray9” rhino, which are common in the South Asian region as a result of small open protected areas with intense human wildlife interface, are a potential source of translocates for reintroduction to new areas. They are in any case rescued if possible and translocated back into the protected area from where they came. They will not make ideal candidates for major reintroductions for behavioral reasons, as they are likely to continue to stray in new sites and there is an increased risk of these animals being stressed and carrying disease. In this case more intensive veterinary investigation and quarantine prior to return or translocation of animals to the protected areas is advisable.
In the case of white rhino staggered releases work well. Staggered releases of greater one-horned rhinos in Nepal have also apparently worked well but due to massive losses of reintroduced rhino due to poaching and civil war, follow-up monitoring of future translocations is required. If possible, staggered releases should be avoided for black rhino due to their aggressive nature, unless temporary fencing is going to be used to keep established and new rhino apart until they get to know each other through the fence.
In large populations such as Kruger National Park in South Africa there is some support for block removal of all sex and age classes of rhinos including breeding males as a founder group, as the group is more integrated (individuals know each other) and this should reduce post-release fighting.
Where possible founder rhino should be unrelated (as far as is known) to maximise the initial genetic heterozygosity of the founder group.
Young adult cows (7–15 years) are prime candidates for removal, although care needs to be taken to avoid skewing the age structure of a donor population towards older animals by continuous selective removal of young females over a long period.
Animals with young calves should generally not be caught as young calves are more prone to translocation mortality risks, although under careful management those risks can be reduced to acceptable levels. Cow and calf translocations are best suited to field to field translocations. The technique must include darting of animals at release and waking them together which ensures the mother and the calf stay together.
Calves born in bomas are often rejected by their mothers or die. Given the difficulty of visually assessing the stage of pregnancy in the field, if time permits, consider using rectal ultrasonography to identify rhino in late stages of pregnancy during capture/translocation operations (Radcliffe et al., 2001). Examination of mammary glands is an alternate and practical method of assessing the stage of pregnancy and or confirming possible calves missed during the capture process necessitating release. Any such rhino can then immediately be given an antidote and released back into the field.
Rhinos should also (as far as is known) be capable of breeding, in reasonable condition and should not be very old. For African rhinos, the AfRSG standard 1–5 (very poor–very good) body score (Adcock & Emslie, 2003) should be used as a guide to identify an appropriate candidate for translocation. Animals of fair body conditions (AfRSG score 3 and below) should not be transported unless for treatment or special attention purposes and should only be transported for short distances within the conservation area. Lame rhino or animals with injuries to sensory organs, such as the eye due to previous trauma or disease, are also less suitable for the rigours of translocation and reintroduction. Such animals should be avoided.
In very large areas (>1,000 km2), unless monitoring reveals black rhinos are dispersing well naturally, consider removing black rhinos from core areas when densities build up, and use these animals to set up breeding nuclei in other areas of the park.
Rhinos should be of the correct subspecies for the proposed recipient area, with the possible exception being where it may no longer be possible to source founder rhino of the indigenous subspecies but where founder rhino of another subspecies are available to at least allow the species to be re-introduced (e.g. where it was not possible to obtain northern white rhino to reintroduce into Uganda).
Experience with the translocation and rehabilitation of orphaned rhinos in Africa and Asia has been generally negative, with poor establishment and behavioural problems. Orphaned animals are more suited for captive breeding. Rehabilitating orphaned rhinos is also a costly exercise. In one case an orphaned black rhino moved from the Nairobi Elephant Orphanage to Tsavo East National Park first adopted hippo and after rejection, an elephant. In this case a female elephant gored the animal and it died (R. Kock, pers. obs.).
A number of factors need to be taken into account before deciding to capture an outlier rhino.
Security: the animal is in danger of being poached or its habitat is threatened.
Viability: the animal is isolated from other rhinos, or is part of a “doomed”, unviable and/or potentially inbred group, which through translocation would become part of a viable population.
Breeding: the animal is not breeding owing to aggression or is otherwise unviable.
The costs of capture and translocation: the cost of catching an individual rhino in particularly difficult conditions should not outweigh the small benefit to recipient population (in terms of its contribution to improved breeding output), particularly if the rhino is a male.
Genetic value: the rhino is of high genetic value because of its genetic uniqueness or remoteness from other populations, the habitat type and possible local adaptation of the rhino or source of genetic variation. This factor can be explored through genetic studies but in the end is likely to be a judgement call based on many factors.
Sex of the rhino: the animal is a female and has value/potential in increasing breeding output in a recipient population.
The capture and translocation of rhino is a complex undertaking that requires accurate planning and effective coordination at all stages of the process. More often than not the key to the success or failure of any translocation operation lies in the planning and coordinating phase of the project.
It must be emphasized that the planning phase begins months and in some instances years before the actual translocation takes place. It is therefore critical that the first order of business is to convene a coordination committee that will be responsible for planning all aspects of the process, especially if rhino capture is a novel undertaking and not being undertaken by a recognised and established rhino capture team.
Depending on the translocation it may be advisable to set up a regional liaison committee containing representation from the state, private and/or communities involved. The committee should be comprised of representatives from all relevant parties including technical experts in all aspects of the operation. The coordination committee should be headed by a dedicated project leader.
Problems can arise if there is not good scientific and technical input into the discussions as committees can make poor decisions regarding numbers of animals to remove and where to take them to. It is essential that such committees are not only comprised of senior decision-makers and that expert technical people are also involved.
184.108.40.206 Long-term planning objectives
Conservation objectives of any translocation project should be consistent with the country's conservation policies, strategies and plans.
Sufficient funding must be available for all aspects of the operation both in terms of personnel and operational budgets.
Managers must not only budget for the translocations but also ensure there will be sufficient long-term funding for ongoing security and monitoring. If the latter is not in place then the translocation should not take place.
Liaison and consultation must be undertaken with interested and affected parties. This should include addressing any socio political impacts with local communities and other stakeholders who may affect the success of the operation
For cross border translocation, the relevant legal documents pertaining to the translocation (e.g. permits for narcotic immobilizing drugs, CITES, firearm and veterinary permits, passports and visa of accompanying team members) including the necessary inter-governmental Memoranda of Understanding, must be obtained prior to the operation;
The potential for cross border Trans Frontier Conservation Areas which could have a rhino population should be investigated. As rhino currently cross unrestricted between India and Nepal this is de facto already the case in a few locations but recognition of this fact politically with cross-border coordination of monitoring and security is needed.
220.127.116.11 Medium-term planning objectives
Pre-capture monitoring should be undertaken in advance of the proposed translocation date to ensure that the most suitable animals are selected for translocation. Knowing where the animals are can also cut down costs by minimising capture and helicopter times.
All the equipment needed for the operation must be available and in good working condition. This includes all specialized equipment that may need to be built to specification prior to the operation.
Availability of transport (air/road) for delivery of animals and for personnel needs must be confirmed and secured prior to undertaking the translocation exercise.
Contingency planning must be in place where possible to be able to respond to unexpected complications.
Media coverage of the operation at the capture and release sites and, in most cases, at the national level in the concerned countries should be managed so that it does not stress the rhinos and compromise their safe release. Media and VIP circuses at release should be avoided.
A post-release strategy must be designed and implemented to ensure the stated objectives of the operation are achieved.
Experienced rhino capture teams will have a range of available reinforced steel framed wooden rhino crates of different sizes. However if standard crates are not being used then wooden rhino crates will need to be ordered and made (such as has happened in the past in Nepal). In such cases it may be necessary to arrange a carpenter to attend the capture and translocation in case running repairs are required. This will not be necessary if professionally made standard steel and/or angle iron reinforced wooden rhino crates are used.
If catching greater one-horned rhino sufficient healthy koonkie elephants must be secured and in place to work from the start of capture. These animals should be certified tuberculosis free.
Custom built four-wheel drive rhino capture lorries with hoist cranes, hydraulic arms or hoists or ramps with winches are routinely used by major rhino capture teams in Africa, and these should be secured for capture where possible. Cranes are the best options as they offer the greatest flexibility. Where these customised rhino capture trucks are not available a tractor and sled must be arranged if field to crate transport is required.
If operating in a defined wilderness area or in difficult terrain it may not be possible to use rhino capture trucks. In such cases the only way to get captured rhinos out of the area may be by the use of sleds or to airlift them out using powerful military helicopters to carry the rhinos in a net sling (Figure 30). Such airlifts are very expensive, and suitably large and powerful helicopters may need to be organised some time in advance. Because of the very high ferry costs of getting such large helicopters to a reserve, it usually will be more cost effective to do occasional major removals from wilderness areas every few years rather than seek to do smaller regular annual removals.
Radio transmitters, batteries and receivers (and collars if being used) must be obtained for post-release monitoring. Transponders also need to be sourced and should be fitted routinely to the shoulder and horn(s) of any immobilised rhino.
18.104.22.168 Short-term planning objectives
All access roads must be serviceable and bush-clearing knives, spades, chainsaws, spare tyres and puncture repair kits should be carried in order to enable capture vehicles access to rhinos.
All personnel requirements must be met throughout the operation.
Ensure that sufficient capture drugs (including antidotes and necessary emergency pharmaceuticals) are in date, in good supply and readily available. A translocation must not be undertaken with a bare minimum of drugs.
It may be advisable to form a coordination committee. This is especially recommended where translocations are not routine and the recipient country or organisation does not have rhino or rhino translocation experience. Such a committee should have representation from:
A dedicated rhino management team or, in their absence, qualified rhino experts.
A security team.
A veterinary team.
A capture team (including a “koonkie” elephant team for greater one-horned rhino and air support team for Africa)
Area managers for the source and release sites.
Communications and public relations team.
Financial and administrative team.
A permitting officer (when required).
A logistics officer and or team (greater one-horned rhino).
Higher-level authorities in source and release sites
When translocations take place across international borders two coordinating teams (one for the source and one for the release sites) may be appointed but their activities should be closely coordinated and their responsibilities carefully outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the two countries before the start of the operation.
22.214.171.124 Regional rhino conservation bodies and international translocations
Regional rhino conservation bodies such as the SADC Rhino Management Group and SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation have also assisted with brokering and coordinating cross boundary rhino reintroductions (such as the recent reintroduction of black rhino back to Botswana and Zambia). Discussions are underway to form an East African Community Rhino Management Group and such a body could fulfil as similar role in East Africa.
In South Asia, the best time for capturing rhino is when the temperatures are not high and the ground is not too wet for vehicle access. This generally means the winter months between November and February.
In Africa, the capture of rhino is usually undertaken when the ground is dry so as to avoid injury to the rhino and staff, as well as damage to vehicles and equipment. Dry ground also makes areas more accessible to the capture vehicles. It is preferable to plan captures for when the vegetation is less dense and leaf cover low so as to improve the helicopter team's ability to locate and keep rhinos visual from the air. However the end of the dry season and beginning of the wet season are inappropriate times for capture because of the poor condition of the animals. It is recommended that the translocations are planned for early in the dry season when the condition of the rhinos is expected to be fairly good and the access roads have dried to facilitate capture and transport.
Capture and translocation of rhino should be timed to coincide with the cooler hours of the day (below 25°C) to avoid the risk of hypothermia and other heat related complications.
However, as conditions may vary tremendously from site to site, knowledge of the climate and vegetation at the source and release sites is essential in order to establish the ideal time of year for translocation.
When planning the translocation of rhino over distances requiring over 12 hours it is advisable to plan the capture time by first determining the offloading time. This applies particularly to the field delivery of rhino. The rhino must not be expected to stand unnecessarily in the crate because the delivery vehicle has arrived at the release site at night. The capture must be planned in such a way that the rhino are offloaded without any delay upon arrival at the release site.
The procurement of the required drugs and equipment may take considerable time and therefore should be carried out well before the target date of the operation. Drugs and darting equipment may also be subject to certain legislative restrictions which may increase the time delays.
Various licenses or permits may be required for rhino translocation both at source and destination and these should be acquired well before the date of the operation. Veterinary and other conservation related permits (e.g. CITES permits in both the exporting and importing countries and any internal movement permits needed) may also take considerable time to finalize. Therefore it is critical to plan a route from source to destination well in advance of the translocation. One also needs to check that there are not any restrictions on the movement of rhino through certain areas for veterinary or political reasons.
Many capture teams, pilots and aircraft have very busy schedules and their availability must be determined and their service secured well in advance. These items are also expensive and it is usually essential that budget lines on aircraft, elephants etc. are included in organisational budgets well in advance.
The transport vehicles and equipment used should be appropriate for the terrain at the capture site.
All equipment and vehicles should also be serviced and in good working order to avoid break downs/problems during capture. Dedicated capture teams use the off-season when they are not catching animals to maintain and repair their equipment.
Ground teams must also carry bush clearing equipment such as chainsaws and cane knifes as well as tools such as picks, shovels and spades, carpenters' tools.
All role players need to be notified well in advance.
Back up darts should be carried by the marksman.
A communication system should be in working order and in place to allow for continuous contact between relevant field personnel especially when darting from the air and following up animals on the ground.
A GPS to mark the point of collapse of the animal which can be determined from the air support can help the ground team access areas more efficiently. Clearly marking the field vehicle that will be first on the scene (by painting its bonnet bright orange) can help the air support crew keep the vehicle in sight facilitating the issuing of radio instructions to the ground crew as to the best route through the bush and drainage lines to an animal that has gone down.
The exact composition and number of personnel needed depends on the number of animals to be translocated but should always consist of at least the following:
Experienced capture personnel.
An experienced wildlife vet.
Experienced rhino capture officer with, where legally authorised, a dangerous drugs use certificate. The certificate should only be issued to suitably trained and tested personnel but currently in South Asia this is not the case;
Experienced drivers of the appropriate vehicles who preferably should have some mechanical knowledge.
Depending on circumstances the staff composition may in addition include:
Field monitoring teams to locate rhinos early in the morning prior to the start of capture and to help guide in capture teams;
Tractor and excavator drivers when capturing greater one-horned rhino.
Research technicians/biologists/field staff who can take photographs, measurements, complete a standardised translocation record form with details of capture/release location, ID of animal, transponder numbers, ear-notch patterns, age and sex of animals, planned destination of animal if known etc.
Technicians who can fit radio transmitters and transponders to horns and/or make ear-notches according to plan.
Media liaison and management personnel;
Veterinary technicians who can assist in monitoring the immobilised rhino, collect samples of blood, parasites and tissue following protocols;
Security/safety officer (Asia);
When capturing greater one-horned rhino, a suitably armed and trained officer/ranger to protect the darter and team while rhino are being tranquilized and while the team are working on the rhino. The ranger will have to be prepared to deter the target animal or another rhino, elephant, buffalo or even tiger, and where necessary, and when life is endangered, shoot the animal after giving warning shots.
First aid officer if other members of the team are not trained in first aid;
Financial and administrative staff;
Mechanic (or one who can be called quickly);
Carpenter (if using wooden crates)
Mahouts (elephant handlers for capture of greater one-horned rhino). It is important that the mahouts have good experience with handling rhinos, and there is one leader appointed from whom all other mahouts will take their cue (Williams, 2008).
Crowd controller (in Asia)
A translocation procedure should be conducted like a military operation and in an orderly manner. This calls for strict discipline among all personnel. A management hierarchy with a clear line of command and responsibilities for the team is therefore essential. Everyone in the best rhino capture teams knows their exact role throughout the exercise. By splitting tasks amongst the team, time and money can be saved during the capture. When elephants are to be used, Mahouts should also be fully briefed explaining the exact steps to be followed during the operation.
Some countries have not gained experience, or have lost the skills and experience required to successfully catch and translocate rhinos. In addition, the number of rhinos moved in a country annually may not justify equipping a rhino capture unit with capture trucks, crates etc. In these instances, expertise and equipment may be sourced and borrowed from a neighbouring country.
It is recommended that where possible staff gain practical experience working with rhino capture practitioners in the field. The attendance at courses such as the Dangerous Drugs course at Malilangwe, Zimbabwe or gaining experience with rhino in captivity or with an established rhino capture team can also help build capacity.
Regional rhino groups may help facilitate training and building of local capacity.
Much of the work done on estimating ECC for rhinos has been done for black rhino. The number of black rhino an area can carry is a function of available land area (size), habitat conditions (especially the availability of suitable favoured and staple food resources), rainfall and its distribution through the year, temperatures, fire regimes, soil textures and nutrient status, and competing herbivore densities (Adcock, 2001a & b; Adcock, 2006; Adcock et al., 2007; Adcock et al., in prep; Amin et al., 2006; Okita-Ouma et al., 2007).
Increases in alien plants can significantly reduce ECC in rhino areas in both Africa and Asia.
Rhino habitats (and their ECCs) can be very dynamic, and successive changes to vegetation (through fire, alien plants, increased browsing/grazing pressure etc.) can be positive or negative for rhino. To be of most use ECC assessments must account for all of these factors.
Supposing a reserve held 100 rhinos 30 years ago, but following negative habitat changes its ECC has declined by 70% to only 30 rhinos, and rhino numbers have stayed around the 30 level for the last decade. Any decision-maker who thinks that the “safe” option is to put off removing any rhinos from this area until numbers have increased would be making a major mistake, unless it is clear that recent habitat changes have been favourable. As explained earlier. a lost rhino remains a lost rhino whether it has been poached or simply has failed to be born or died soon after birth due to sub-optimal biological management; and without rapid population growth loss of genetic diversity will be greater. Not removing can be a wrong rather than a safe option.
An assessment of the habitat suitability of potential recipient areas should include an estimation of the medium-term ecological carrying capacity (ECC) and likely productivity before any rhino introductions take place. The exception to this will be for very arid areas with high coefficients of variation in rainfall, where populations will never approach densities that could be supported in wetter years, as densities in such areas will be constrained by food availability in crunch drought periods.
Rhino densities and ECC have been shown to vary widely across a species range. Therefore it is imperative that managers understand that just because a flagship population has a density of X rhinos/km2 this does not mean that another area can also support the same density of rhinos.
Rhino stocking densities and ECC should be scaled according to reserve size to allow direct comparisons across different sized parks (this is most commonly done using either rhinos/km2 or its reciprocal km2/rhino).
Whenever rhinos have been reduced to low numbers in an area or country as a result of habitat loss and poaching, be aware that existing, or the last recorded populations of a species may be located in more marginal, inaccessible or lower carrying capacity habitats or areas which may simply have had better protection, and may not represent ideal or higher carrying capacity habitat. The opposite can also hold. For example, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Kaziranga National Park have very high densities of white and greater one-horned rhino respectively, and ECC and productive stocking rates are likely to be much lower than in these source populations in most other recipient areas offering the chance of rapid population growth if rhinos can be protected. The key point to grasp is that current distribution and densities of rare species or subspecies of rhino in a few surviving populations may not be a good guide to future potential of other areas for reintroduced populations.
For re-introductions, estimates of medium term carrying capacity for rhinos can be used to help determine the maximum desirable productive stocking density for rhinos as well as guiding decisions on the maximum number of founder rhino that should be introduced. In Africa, the AfRSG, SADC RMG and SADC RPRC have recommended that rhino are introduced at not more than ½ of the estimated maximum productivity carrying capacity (MPCC) level. MPCC for large long lived herbivores like rhinos (that are suspected of having a non-linear ramp shaped density productivity relationship), has routinely been estimated at about 75%–80% of ECC. Thus rhino should be introduced at no more than 40% of estimated ECC to (1) allow plenty of room for population growth, (2) delay the time when removals will be needed to maintain productivity, and (3) minimise social pressures during the settling-down phase, and thereby reduce the likelihood of post-release fighting deaths.
Experts intuitively use a comparative approach to estimate ECC (contrasting the relative suitability of different areas). It helps if there are some rhino areas where numbers have increased and then leveled off indicating possible benchmark ECCs for these areas. ECCs for new populations can then be estimated relative to these benchmarks. When building ECC estimation models for other rhino species, the same comparative density estimation approach (which has been used successfully with black rhinos) should prove useful.
One or more persons with proven experience in estimating rhino ecological carrying capacity should be engaged to do the habitat assessment of a new area. In Africa this is particularly important for black rhino, whose requirements are much more critical than for white rhino. For some areas it may be possible for experts to very quickly give rough estimates of ECC (e.g. 0.1 black rhinos/km2 or 1 rhino/10km2 for areas of Zimbabwe Lowveld habitat) without the need for a more time consuming formal habitat assessment.
Even though modeled or expert estimates of ECC are at best crude and fairly approximate figures, experience in Africa has shown that they none the less they can be very useful practical tools to help guide and inform biological management decision-making.
Currently the best understanding of the factors affecting rhino ECC is for the black rhino. A black rhino habitat assessment technique and related ECC estimation model has been developed by Adcock and co-workers (Adcock, 2001a & b; Adcock, 2006; Adcock et al., in prep; Okita-Ouma et al., 2007). It predicts black rhino ECC (as estimated by experts) using data and expert estimates of ECC from 24 sites in South Africa, Namibia and Kenya (Adcock 2001b; Adcock et al in prep). The process of developing the RMG / Darwin Initiative ECC estimation model has been useful in identifying which variables are the best predictors of ECC (as estimated by experts). Encouragingly there is a close linear correlation between the logs of male black rhino home range sizes (Adcock, 2001b) and expert and model estimates of ECC (Adcock, 2001b) providing some confidence that the experts and model's ECC estimates are approximately correct. The model has been refined to also take into account biomass of other competing browsers (Adcock et al., in prep) as well as to estimate carrying capacity of areas in terms of the number of adult males they can carry. It should be realised that such estimates are approximate “ball-park” guides rather than precise accurate figures.
With each rhino species eating different foods and living in different habitats there is a need to develop similar predictive models/expert understanding for other rhino species to help guide translocation and biological management decision-making. While the key variables to assess and their relative influence on ECC will differ from species to species, the approach that has been developed for black rhino is described in more detail below as a similar approach could be used to develop and refine ECC estimation models for other species. ECC estimation models can continue to be refined and improved as the number of reference benchmarked populations and knowledge increases.
It is important to understand that knowledge of habitat, estimated ECC and recorded densities of rhinos in one area cannot be simply transferred and applied uncritically to other areas. Differences in food availability and species composition and size, class structure, climate, geology and soils, as well as densities of potential competing large herbivores and fire regimes all need to be taken into account when assessing ECC. For example much of the tall Saccharum habitat available to the reintroduced greater one-horned rhino in Suklaphanta, Nepal occurs in much drier areas than in the source Chitwan National Park population (where tall moist Saccharum grasslands are a key habitat). The result is that much of the drier Saccharum habitat in Suklaphanta is not currently being used for feeding, and estimates of ECC are likely to be inaccurate if based solely on the area of Saccharum habitat available without considering other factors influencing the quality of each habitat type.
Decision-makers need to know that ECC can vary substantially not only from one reserve to another, as well as between different areas of the same park and over time in the same areas of the same park.
The reason for using recognized rhino habitat assessment experts is that experience has shown that otherwise good ecologists or experts in other aspects of rhino conservation can significantly overestimate rhino carrying capacities with negative consequences. The costs of erring on the side of overestimating rather than underestimating ECC it is that the former can result in new and established populations being overstocked and under-harvested, which in turn is likely to negatively impact on metapopulation performance. Overestimates of ECC can also cause problems by creating unrealistic expectations in the minds of land managers.
Knowledge of the factors affecting total rhino and male carrying capacities allows the population densities of rhinos and habitat to be managed in reserves at levels that should minimise rhino fighting deaths and poor population performance due to social pressures and food limitations.
Habitat quality and ECC also needs to be periodically assessed in established donor populations as plant succession, habitat structural changes, competing large herbivores, alien plan invasions, fire and current total rhino and male rhino densities may have resulted in significantly reduced ECC. This information can be used to help guide translocation decision-making to help maintain donor rhino populations in a productive state.
The smaller the potential recipient reserve for rhinos is, the more important it becomes to estimate ECC well.
With larger areas it may be possible to quickly determine that habitat in the short-medium term will not be limiting, and that the area can easily take the proposed initial founder number. For example Manas National Park in Assam until relatively recently held significant numbers of greater one-horned rhino, before they were all poached out during the Bodo rebellion. In such cases security considerations will be far more important than any habitat or ECC considerations when deciding whether or not to reintroduce rhino, unless major habitat changes may have taken place in the short term which may have significantly reduced ECC.
Readers should be aware that to date there has been a difference between Africa and Asia in how the area available to rhino (used in density and ECC estimations) is routinely stated. While the tables for Asian rhino below consider areas of preferred habitats; when determining average African rhino range sizes and densities in Africa, sub-optimal less-preferred habitats are included as range; and only habitats with no food such as large sodic pans, lakes, inaccessible areas and areas far from permanent water are excluded from calculations. In Asia, sub-optimal habitats in which rhino feeding is limited (e.g. Sal forest for greater one-horned rhino) are currently excluded; whereas in Africa such areas would be included in calculations with overall ECC estimates being a weighted average (relative to areas) of ECC estimates for different prime and sub-optimal habitats.
Past experience has shown that non black rhino habitat experts may grossly overestimate black rhino ECCs.
Black rhino ECC estimates should be revised every few years in response to habitat changes and especially levels of available suitable browse in the 0–2m height range. ECC estimation should not be done routinely to monitor year to year or even shorter term seasonal changes in resources within a park; but rather to track the impact of longer term vegetation changes.
Free ranging black rhino ECC densities range as follows (and are particularly dependant on suitable food availability in the 0–2m height layer):
One to 1.5 rhino per km2 in unbroken low thicket vegetation. The highest densities were found historically in Commiphora/Bauhinia thickets in Tsavo West, low Acacia thickets in Hluhluwe in the late 1950s early 1960s and deciduous thickets in the middle Zambezi Valley in the 1960s. These latter areas have annual rainfalls of 600 to 900mm. In East Africa, patches of ground water forest marked by an overstory forest and a dense yearround herb and shrub understory have historically supported similar very high rhino densities (for example the Lerai forests of Ngorongoro Crater).
0.4–0.8 rhino per km2 in broken thicket with acacia woodland savanna vegetation on fertile soils at 700–900 mm annual rainfall. This density can also occur in un-degraded valley bushveld vegetation at 400–500mm rainfall, especially where rainfall is spread well across the year (i.e. the dry season crunch period is not pronounced).
0.2–0.4 rhino per km2 occur commonly in 500–750mm areas where savanna bush and shrub cover is generally good, riverine or groundwater vegetation is often present in undegraded conditions, and soils are medium to good fertility. The higher densities tend to be found in East Africa and lower densities in southern Africa.
0.08–0.2 rhino per km2 occur in cooler areas with frost, semi-arid areas of 300–550mm rainfall with a marked dry season, well-bushed but very infertile areas even at higher rainfalls; and in areas where lightly bushed open savanna or grasslands make up a larger proportion of the land area. Miombo woodlands and arid mixed Mopane woodlands with drainage lines historically can carry in the region of 0.1 rhino/km2
0.03 to 0.15 rhino per km2 in relatively well-vegetated areas of 100–250mm rainfall, and also in the open East African savanna grasslands within Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, where browse availability is very sparse.
0.01 rhino per km2 in poorly vegetated desert plains where food may be very scarce but often is of good quality and high digestibility (e.g. Kunene area of Namibia)
Black rhino translocations should be prioritized to areas were the chances of good rhino breeding performance are better.
Population performance has been shown (through SADC RMG status reporting) to be better in moderately mesic, semi-arid and arid areas where suitable browse species predominate. Areas with lower rainfall and with higher underlying soil fertilities and geology tend to be dominated more by browse of good digestibility and higher nutritional value compared to high rainfall and/or infertile areas.
Black rhino performance appears to be poorer in areas of low nutrient status soils and geologies, in high rainfall areas (e.g. rainfalls >800–1000mm) and in areas where the availability of actual suitable browse for black rhino is low.
As long as water is available, the black rhino is relatively drought tolerant when compared to grazing ungulates, and as long as suitable browse is available cyclical drought need not deter potential introductions. An example of this was seen in Ol Jogi Reserve in Kenya in the 1990s when all zebra and buffalo died out during a protracted drought but black rhino maintained condition throughout (R. Kock, pers. obs.). However, severe prolonged drought has been associated with a massive black rhino die-off where browse pressure was also high with high elephant densities (Glover et al., 1964). While there may not be much food in very arid areas such as Kunene in Namibia, and black rhino ECCs are therefore low, what food there is, is often of a high quality.
A history of sustained heavy browsing pressure can also cause negative vegetation changes with an increasing predominance of less preferred and less important browse species and spizes (i.e. those resistant to browsing) lowering black rhino carrying capacities, as has recently been documented in west iMfolozi (Emslie, R. in prep).
For black rhino, the following factors should be assessed during habitat assessments and can be input into the SADC RMG/Darwin Initiative Black Rhino CC spreadsheet model to produce estimates of black rhino ECC for many areas with the exception of miombo and mopani dominated areas which have not yet been included in the mode (Adcock et al. in prep; 2007):
The actual land area available to the black rhino needs to be calculated. (Figure 15) This should exclude large water bodies, large sodic pans, areas around buildings, fenced-off camps or sections, inaccessible terrain and areas far from permanent water. A well-distributed yearround water supply with a good surrounding food supply will result in a higher carrying capacity than a few isolated water points. Restricted dry season water supply will limit carrying capacity. A widespread summer water distribution can help to spread rhino and alleviate pressure on winter feeding areas near perennial or ground water, as well as social pressure.
The availability of suitable browse: This is the most important factor determining black rhino carrying capacity. Each main vegetation type in the rhino area must be assessed for its area size, total browse availability and the availability of suitable black rhino browse. A standardized method for this is given in Adcock (2006). A database of known suitable and unsuitable black rhino browse is available from the African Rhino Specialist Group or the SADC Rhino Management Group.
Long term mean monthly rainfall (and annual total) determines the relative potential amounts of annual growth of browse. However, rainfall total on its own can be misleading as a guideline to ECC, as the influence of rainfall on CC acts through the standing available browse in the rhino area. If there is little standing browse there can be relatively little growth even in high rainfall areas. Actual browse availability is not correlated with rainfall.
Temperatures: Plant growth slows in months with low average temperatures (<12 degrees Celsius) and also when high average temperatures prevail (>28 degrees). The average July minimum temperatures give a useful index of temperature regime in an area. Sites averaging <3 degrees minimums in July have frequent, fairly severe frosts in peak winter months, which has a large impact on browse, while July minimums of 10 degrees plus mean very hot conditions in summer months which can dampen browse growth slightly. In-between July minimum temperatures have lesser effects on growth.
Soil nutrient status affects species composition and plant nutritional quality as well as plant growth rates, which can be twice as fast on fertile sites compared to infertile sites (for a given rainfall / soil texture). Soil and / or geological information on each area needs to be obtained. Scholes (1990) and Scholes and Walker (1993) provided a summary of the general relationships between parent geology and resulting soil texture and nutrient status. For other geologies not covered there, information on silica content and grain sizes of different geologies can be used to assign nutrient status scores Where soil data were available, a 1–9 nutrient status score can be assigned based on the equation: Nutrient status score = %Clay score (1–3) X base status score (1–3) as per MacVicar (1991). The overall nutrient status of a rhino reserve is obtained by multiplying the nutrient status scores of each soil or geology type by the proportional area of that type in the rhino area.
The prevailing fire regime can be important for black rhino CC. The appropriateness of a fire regime for black rhino needs to account for the average rainfall of the area. The ability of woody plants to withstand fire and re-grow each season is positively correlated with increasing rainfall. Fire frequency and extent are also generally positively correlated with average annual rainfall, because rainfall (along with grazing animal biomass) determines the build-up of grass fuel loads each season. Average annual rainfall thus determines the “potential” total woody cover and recovery rate of a habitat, with soil texture also influencing potential by affecting water infiltration rates and plant root resources for recovery from fire. Thus for a given rainfall (and browser density below CC), there is a fire regime which could maintain the browse at similar levels over time, while fire frequencies or severities above or below this level lead to declines or increases in browse availability for black rhino respectively.
Competing browser densities: Other browsing species share habitats with black rhino, and there is theoretically a “total browser” carrying capacity for the 0–2m rhino feeding layer (determined by total available within 0–2m and the above listed factors as for rhino CC). The available resources in an area have to be partitioned between the individual browsing herbivore species present, and the different herbivores in a system compete and compensate for fluctuations in each others' numbers. Black rhino across Africa on average form 10–15% of total black rhino equivalent browsing metabolic biomass feeding in the 0–2m layer, but can form as high as 35% (K. Adcock, pers. comm). If actual browser density is at or higher than the area's browser CC, black rhino populations may be negatively affected and may not achieve their true potential numbers and growth rates. A total browser carrying capacity model for the 0–2m layer is available from the SADC RMG/Darwin Initiative.
Figure 15. Illustration of how black rhino carrying capacity at the landscape level is determined by (1) the amount of browse available in the rhino area, (2) the amount of annual growth in this available browse, and (3) the species composition (suitability for rhino) of the available browse (from Adcock et al., 2007). The SADC RMG / Darwin Initiative black rhino ECC carrying capacity model is based on these factors, as are estimates by experts.
In terms of browse availability black rhino take well over 90% of their food (woody and semi-woody plants and dicotyledonous annual and perennial herbs) from plant parts in the 0–2m height range. Plants can be pushed over or broken down (by black rhino, elephant or windfall) to be fed on. Available browse can be impacted by competing browser species and fire. A technique has been developed which can rapidly estimate browse availability within rhino feeding height range of 0–2m, and categorising this browse according to three palatability classes (Adcock, 2006). The amount of preferred and non-rejected browse from 0–2m is one of the key predictive variables in the black rhino ECC estimation model.
Distance to water also should be considered when assessing black rhino carrying capacity as land areas and thus browse which are greater than approximately 14km from reliable water are effectively unavailable to black rhino10. Food resources in such areas contribute little to black rhino diet.
The figure above shows that browse growth is also an important component of black rhino ECC and this depends on many factors, including plant species composition, competition between plants, and the amount of soil water available to the plants. This is affected by rainfall patterns, evaporation, soil texture and site location in sloping terrain (run-on / run-off). Soil fertility, temperature conditions for nitrogen mineralization and plant growth, frost incidence and the current and past browsing and burning regime will also affect browse growth.
In fenced areas with ECCs of less than about 70 animals, the carrying capacity for “socially mature” male black rhino (10 years old or more) is far lower than that for females. Mature black rhino males are territorial and will reside in fairly well-defined ranges which overlap little with ranges of other mature territorial males. These ranges are defended against other mature males but a number (perhaps 4–7) of subordinate or subadult males may be tolerated in these territories. This social restriction may limit overall rhino densities, because the range/territory size of the rhinos is correlated inversely with ECC. Thus ECC (via its effect on range size) limits the number of ranges and territories that can co-exist in a given land area. Dispersal of subadult males and females and non-territorial males is the likely natural population regulation mechanism in response to range saturation at densities near CC in black rhino. The SADC RMG/Darwin Black Rhino CC model also allows the prediction of estimated male carrying capacities.
In one long-established black rhino reserve, a decline in ECC over time due to negative habitat changes coincided with increasing male home ranges as would be expected given the correlation between the log of black rhino range sizes and log of estimated black rhino ECC (Adcock, 2001b).
Determinants of white rhino density have not yet been analysed in detail. White rhino densities which are probably near or just below ECC, range approximately as follows:
1.6 to 2 per km2 (Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park – ideal habitat with medium to good soil fertility and 630–1000mm annual rainfall. Many upland Kenyan sites have this potential),
0.3 to 0.5 per km2 (many mixed bushveld areas of moderate fertility with +–550–700mm rainfall including Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg NP)
0.1–0.2 per km2 in less suitable, lower fertility, semi-arid (350–500mm), patchy or cooler habitats with some winter frost).
<0.1 per km2 in very frosty, very sour/infertile or arid sites (<300mm).
White rhino do not do well in wetter areas (>1000mm) with leached soils which are also prone to frequent frosts in winter. Calf survival in such areas may be poor.
N.B. where black and white rhino cohabit an area there is no evidence that one affects the ECC of the other but increased visibility of white rhino might increase the risk of poaching on the one hand and on the other hand lessen the security risk to black rhino as white rhinos are easier to find and poach.
It has been recommended that the AsRSG sets up a working Group to develop a Carrying Capacity Model across the range of greater one-horned rhinos as has been done for black rhino in Africa. The table of observed densities in prime habitats below can be used as a starting point for developing some relative initial estimates of ECC.
Table 1. Densities of greater one-horned rhino
|* Rhinos move between Karnali area of Bardia and KaterniaGhat perhaps should be treated as one area|
|Rhinoceros unicornis||No. of Rhino||Area in km2||Rhino/km2 whole area (potential prime habitat only)||Potential prime habitat||Home range||Remarks|
|Chitwan||372||932||0.40 (0.93)||400 km2||4.6 km2|
|Bardia*||31||968||0.03 (0.38)||80 km2 in Karnali||28 km2|
|50 km2 in Babai valley|
|Kaziranga||1855||480||3.86 (5.30)||350 km2|
|Katerniaghat*||4||421||0.01 (0.20)||20 km2|
|Orang||68||78||0.87 (1.36)||50 km2||1 km2|
|Pabitora||81||38.80||2.09 (5.01)||16 km2 (Reserve area only)||0.20 km2+||Rhinos spend much time outside reserve so actual home ranges much bigger and effective rhinos/km2 will be much lower than 5|
When assessing ECC for greater one-horned rhino the extent of invasion by alien species like Mimosa, Mikania sp, Lantana etc needs to be considered as this can significantly reduce ECC.
Human interference, including encroachment, cattle grazing, siltation and erosion may also reduce ECC.
As with black rhinos the density and impact of other competing herbivores will need to be assessed as well as the food availability and quality etc.
No ECC estimation model has been developed for Sumatran rhino but historical and current estimates can be used as a starting guide.
If numbers in an area have been significantly reduced by poaching and recorded densities are available for the area prior to increased poaching then, provided the habitat quality has not changed markedly, prior densities will provide a better indication of likely ECC of the area.
Table 2. Densities of Sumatran rhino
|BBS NP = Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park|
|Sumatran Rhino||No. of Rhino||Area km2||Rhino/km2 whole area (potential habitat only)||Potential habitat||Home Range||Remarks|
|Way Kambas NP||30||500||0.06||18–20 km2|
|Gunung Leuser NP||50||800||0.06|
|Sabah||30||600||0.05 (0.07)||438 km2|
No EEC estimation model has been developed so far for Javan rhino but historical and current estimates can be used as an initial starting guide. Javan rhino used to have a wider distribution and historical records may shed more light on the range of different habitats that were used by this species.
Table 3. Densities of Javan rhino
|Javan Rhino||No. of Rhino||Area km2||Rhino/km2 whole area (potential habitat only)||Potential habitat||Home Range||Remarks|
|Ujung Kulon||50||200||0.25 (0.26)||190 km2|
The long term survival of a species depends on the maintenance of as much genetic diversity as possible. Genetic concerns in small populations relate to in-breeding and out-breeding depression, loss of genetic heterozygosity, and associated loss of potential future adaptability to the environment, and reduced disease resistance.
The following guidelines represent current recommended best practice:
The translocated rhinos should be of a subspecies that historically occurred at the release site except under exceptional circumstances (e.g. when founder northern white rhinos are not available to be reintroduced into former range, or if a decision is ever made to mix subspecies should a subspecies be reduced to a very small number of animals in the wild or all remaining animals of a subspecies are of one sex).
Populations of one subspecies in a country or region should be managed as a single metapopulation to meet genetic and demographic conservation goals of that subspecies.
Ideally, each rhino re-introduction project should involve at least 20 rhinos, that are, as far as is known, unrelated and able to breed (effective founders11). In practice this optimum founder population has rarely been sourced but as yet, and detrimental effects have not been observed. This might simply reflect the fact that the collapse of rhino populations occurred over a relatively short period (one to two generations), and that on average rhino populations remain genetically heterozygous and have resilience to inbreeding over the shorter term. However this may be temporary unless managed.
Founder breeding groups for introductions should, where possible, and taking all other potential conflicting factors into account (e.g. ecological, disease, behavioural, adaptation), be sourced from different original genetic sources. Thus a founder group may be sourced from more than one population and sometimes more than one country/management authority. This requires significant cooperation and coordination between management authorities. This can be facilitated by parties working with regional or continental rhino conservation bodies should these exist (e.g. AfRSG, SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation and SADC Rhino Management Group in the case of black rhino reintroductions to Zambia).
Rhinos should be introduced into an area that has sufficient carrying capacity to allow rapid population growth (which minimises loss of genetic diversity). For this reason it is recommended that new areas should not be stocked at higher than half of estimated maximum productivity carrying capacity (MPCC). MPCC is usually estimated as 75–80% of estimated medium-term ECC. Therefore if the ECC for a new reserve is 50 rhinos then no more than 20 rhinos should ideally be introduced to allow sufficient room for population growth before expensive future removals will be required to maintain population productivity.
Ideally, each new population should be created in an area which has an estimated ECC of at least 50, and preferably more than a 100 animals. If a carrying capacity of 100 cannot be achieved, then the less desirable alternative is to maintain at least one such population within a national or regional metapopulation of this size, whilst actively managing smaller populations as part of a metapopulation. Larger populations of 50+ and preferably >100 are important reservoirs of genetic variation in a metapopulation. Bigger populations also have the advantage of needing less intensive (and less expensive) management per animal both on genetic and demographic grounds. This can be an important consideration where conservation budgets are limited but there needs to be a trade off against increased risks of losses with reduced intensity of monitoring and poaching.
Where possible positive incentives should be created to encourage neighbouring land owners/conservation agencies/communities to take down internal fences or barriers to movement, and in so doing create larger areas capable of taking the desired 20+ effective founders.
The carrying capacity of a recipient area is only one criteria that needs to be considered when deciding where to translocate rhinos to. Rhinos should not be translocated to any area (no matter what its ECC is) if sufficient security is not yet in place. Less secure higher risk areas should only be tested where available secure space to set up new populations becomes limited, and there is a clear need to remove animals from existing populations showing signs of density dependent reductions in performance. In such cases there is little to loose.
Putting smaller sub-optimal founder groups of rhinos into smaller areas where they can be well protected and managed as part of a bigger metapopulation is preferable to putting a large group of rhinos into a large area with inadequate security.
There may be a risk in deriving founders from a small source population that itself has had a limited founder base and has stagnated through poor breeding. This “sub-sampling” of the gene pool could bottleneck the genetic diversity of the new population from the outset unless founders have been drawn from more than one source population as recommended.
In smaller populations, surplus rhino should be removed to limit/avoid inbreeding between closely related individuals (i.e. prevent fathers mating with daughters).
One new breeding individual per generation (approximately every 10 to 15 years) should be introduced into each smaller population from a different donor area to compensate for inbreeding, genetic drift etc. When dealing with black rhino, due to increased risks of male mortality as a result of fighting with established males, the introduction of an adult female rhino may have a higher chance of breeding and hence introducing new blood.
Where possible, detailed population history tables documenting known and or suspected parentage of animals for all known animals in smaller populations should be maintained. The ear-notching of calves before they leave their mother enables managers to retain knowledge of who an animal's mother is after they have become independent. Population history tables should include the entire population in the case of smaller reserves, or a subset of animals in larger populations that can act as an indicator of genetic inter-relatedness. Genetic sampling can also reveal paternity.
Rapid rates of population growth must be quickly achieved and maintained (particularly in the smaller populations) as rapid population growth minimises loss of genetic heterozygosity (in addition to enabling conservation target numbers to be reached sooner and creating a bigger buffer against the negative effects of poaching). In African rhino populations this has generally been the case, perhaps explaining the low levels of genetic anomalies recorded and successful recovery except in some famous examples e.g. northern white rhino. This is probably the biggest danger in Asia where stagnant populations might just fizzle out as they did in countries like China. Inbreeding increases this risk.
Every attempt should be made to ensure that donor populations are also not negatively affected by removals.
Where rhino populations have been established outside their historical range and there is a possibility of replacing them with rhinos of the local indigenous subspecies, consideration should be given to translocating rhinos back to their former range and re-stocking with the indigenous subspecies (as has happened in Addo Elephant National Park). However this is a very costly and time consuming exercise, and is only likely to be undertaken or recommended in selected cases with smaller populations12
Although a lower priority, in certain instances genetic heterozygosity can be monitored through DNA analyses and cytogenetic studies (e.g. to indicate the extent to which specific dominant bulls have dominated breeding and may need to be replaced).
Where source populations are part of captive managed programmes a studbook should be provided confirming there was no cross-breeding or potential for this.
The box below gives some statistics for mortality losses for black rhino and to a lesser extent white rhino during capture, release and the initial post-release settling in period.
Figure 16 gives the breakdown of causes of capture/translocation mortalities in black rhino in South Africa and Namibia from 1989–2006 based on SADC RMG data. Fighting and stress-related deaths have been declining in recent years as a result of reduced translocation of small groups of rhinos to small properties and an increased focus on translocating rhinos to larger areas.
Figure 16. Mortalities during black rhino translocation in South African and Namibia over the 18 year period 1989–2006 based on an analysis of SADC RMG annual status reporting data. Of the 765 documented black rhino translocations, there were 65 capture/translocation-related mortalities (8.5%). The causes of these mortalities was mainly Stress (40.0%), Post-Release Fighting (24.6%), Capture-related 18.5%, Boma-related (10.8%) and Other (6.2%) (Figure prepared by R H Emslie based on analysis of SADC RMG data by K.Adcock in prep).
Black rhino translocation mortalities are usually a little higher than for white rhinos due to their aggression and increased likelihood of post-release fighting. White rhinos are more prone to other causes of death, such as accidental drowning, and post-release fighting deaths are less frequent.
Mortalities of Sumatran rhino captured using pit traps are lower than for those captured using a stockade trap (Sectionov, pers. comm.) but total numbers are low making comparisons between methods difficult.
Between 1986 and 2003 87 greater one-horned rhino were translocated from Chitwan in Nepal to Bardia and Suklaphanta. No capture related mortalities were experienced until after release (J. Flamand, pers. comm.). However post-release monitoring was minimal, and it is therefore not known if there were translocation related mortalities in the post-release period. Recently two rhino in India were also translocated without mortality from Pabitora to Manas. The results of translocation in the 1970s to Dudhwa were reported as successful in 9/10 cases but another anecdotal report suggests one further loss due to a fracture.
Experience has shown that a failure to make a decision to proceed with a translocation based on fear of possibly losing some animals in the process (i.e. only considering costs and not full cost:benefit trade offs) is often likely to be far more costly in terms of rhino numbers and metapopulation growth in the longer term than the apparently “safe” option of inaction. As has been mentioned earlier, a lost rhino is a lost rhino whether or not it died due to poaching or capture-related mortality or simply failed to be born due to sub-optimal nutrition caused by overstocking. In such cases there is really nothing to lose by reducing densities in an overstocked population.
When considering translocation mortality risks, it is imperative that decisions on whether or not to proceed with translocations consider the full cost:benefit trade offs of proceeding with or not doing translocations. Similarly the fact that there is a small brokerage fee and possibly additional taxes to be paid when buying company shares/equities (i.e. a cost) is not a good reason to not to buy shares as a long term investment and instead keep your retirement savings in a low interest bank savings account as the latter will significantly under-perform the shares in the longer term.
For example thanks to translocation there are now 10 times more southern white rhinos on earth than there would have been if there had been no translocation.
Despite initial higher losses in one nutrient poor area which was overstocked, the emergency translocation of black rhinos out of the Zambezi valley (at a time of heavy poaching) and their relocation to conservancies in safer areas elsewhere has been a great success. Translocated populations now make up the large majority of Zimbabwe's rhinos.
Translocation and an increased focus on biological management for growth, has allowed Kenya to increase the growth rate of its black rhino metapopulation despite initial losses of rhino during or after translocations.
Translocation has also contributed to rapid growth in Nambian black rhino.
Keeping many “eggs in one basket” is not strategically sound. A failure to translocate animals when there is a clear need can have disastrous consequences. For example.
A period of heavy poaching reduced northern white rhino in the one surviving wild population, Garamba National Park from only 30 to only four animals from 2003–2005. The failure to set up a second population has increased the chances of this subspecies' extinction in the wild. Sadly recent ground surveys have failed to find any signs of remaining rhinos and the subspecies may have become extinct or reduced to non-viable levels in the wild.
The performance of the remaining population of Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon has been poor for many years (see text box in Introduction), suggesting this population may be at or close to ECC. The failure to translocate animals out of this population to date has probably significantly reduced the numbers of Javan rhinos surviving today as well as reducing genetic heterozygosity of remaining rhinos. A natural disaster such as a Tsunami or outbreak of heavy poaching could wipe out this population.
The importance of considering the likely benefits of translocation and not only the possible mortality costs is best illustrated by a hypothetical worked example. Let us suppose there is a single population of 50 rhinos in a population stocked at or above estimated Ecological Carrying Capacity and where numbers have remained stable for the last 10 years with births being balanced by deaths (0% growth). Suppose that instead 10 years ago, management had removed 20 rhinos to set up a second population. Given an initial 10% capture/translocation related mortality, and after a two year settling-in period of zero growth, let us then suppose these translocated rhinos grew at a rapid 9% net annual population growth rate in their new population (as many translocated populations have done). Let us further suppose that following the reduction in rhino densities in the original population, dietary nutrition improved for remaining rhino, and their underlying population growth rate improved as a result from 0% to 5% per annum. If one had proceeded with the removals 10 years ago, and despite the translocation mortalities and two year settling in period (costs); the number of rhinos in the metapopulation would have increased from 50 in one population (no removals) to 85 in two populations (49 in original population and 36 in second translocated population). Net average metapopulation growth over the period would have increased from 0% (no removals) to 5.4% (translocation to set up second population). After 10 years, if this process was repeated with translocation of a further 20 from the original population to set up a third population; then in another 10 years the metapopulation would have increased to 168 in three populations (47, 85 and 36) raising the average annual metapopulation growth rate over the twenty year period to 6.2%. While 10% (four rhinos) of the rhinos died during capture/translocation, the net gain to the metapopulation over 20 years following translocation was an additional 118 rhinos (more than double the starting number). Strategically having over three times the number of rhinos spread across three populations represents a significant improvement. This puts the “costs” into perspective. A failure to translocate rhinos in this case was not the “safe” or strategically wise option. This example shows how Inaction or delayed action can be far more costly than any translocation losses experienced as a result of active biological management.
In general, veterinary concerns around reintroductions are focused on the immobilization and management of rhino during the physical intervention phases of translocations. The technical data for these interventions, associated with each species, are provided elsewhere and appropriate texts are referenced in this guideline. At all times the role of the veterinarian is to ensure optimal health and welfare of the rhino in the source and recipient populations and for those individuals selected for translocation. Basic procedures are mentioned with more detailed information referenced or annexed. Health and disease of rhino are also the concern of the vet and a few general points around potential problems are dealt with here. Other veterinary related issues are also highlighted.
The order Perissodactyla comprises of only three surviving families equids, tapirs and rhinos. From a disease risk perspective this has one advantage in that the diversity of disease agents for a species tends to be related to the population size and the numbers of closely related species. If a species has a large population and many close relatives it provides ideal conditions for parasite and pathogen evolution (Kock et al., 2007). The rhino is most probably fortunate in this respect with low populations and few relatives. The close relationship between rhinos and horses, especially in anatomy, physiology, parasites, disease, nutrition and response to drugs (Morkel & Kennedy-Benson, 2007) and the large amount of knowledge on horse veterinary issues provides us with opportunities to better understand diseases in rhinos.
From a veterinary perspective a translocation can be seen as a movement of a package of biological elements including the animal, its bacteria, fungi, viruses, internal and external parasites, all of which could be potentially harmful to other rhino populations and herbivores in the release site. On the other hand, the environment at the release site might have agents to which the arriving animals have never been exposed and which could prove detrimental to their health. It is therefore a pre-condition for a successful re-introduction or supplementation that the translocated animals are healthy and not carrying any infectious or contagious diseases that they can transmit to others. Healthy animals also have more of a chance of coping with the stresses of relocation and are more able to adapt to their new environment. For these reasons, and since a number of the procedures involved in physical intervention with rhino require veterinary expertise, it is important that appropriately trained veterinarians are involved in all stages of the operation. However, despite all such veterinary precautions some mortality as a result of translocations may still be inevitable. Suggested veterinary screening protocols are provided in Annexe 1 and see Kock et al. in prep.
In general, because of potential increased disease risks captive animals should generally not be introduced into established significant free-ranging populations (Osofsky et al., 2001). Every translocation of captive or wild rhinos needs to be assessed by a qualified and experienced rhino veterinarian on its merits and an evaluation of possible disease risks. Re-establishment of small populations from captive locations is acceptable.
Owing to the cryptic nature of the rhino, knowledge of disease in free-ranging populations is still scanty and most literature relates to captive rhino that show an array of bizarre conditions and these appear to relate mostly to conditions of confinement.
In free-ranging conditions in East Africa there are reports of syndromes that often relate to periods of starvation or stress, and here opportunistic pathogens and parasites were the proximate cause of death.
Translocation has enabled closer examination of rhino and many veterinary reports relate to these events. In these instances ill health or death can occur from trauma (during capture, transport, boma management or after release from con-specific aggression). For example Figure 16 above showed that 8.5% of black rhinos translocated in Namibia, and South Africa from 1989–2006 died from translocation related causes although mortality rates in recent years have been declining following a shift to moving bigger founder numbers to larger areas using distributed narcotized releases (Adcock in prep based on an analysis of SADC RMG data).
Animals may also die from opportunistic infections or exposure to novel disease agents or toxins in the recipient area or bomas (e.g. creosote13 in boma wood, algae and botulism) and sometimes poor nutrition with drought or if animals are overstocked. These problems are often exacerbated by stress leading to expression of latent infection with e.g. aspergillosis or piroplasms. Viral disease appears rare although various antibodies can be detected. Bacterial disease, such as tuberculosis (Keep & Besson 1973) and anthrax (de Vos, 1980), most probably do occur (cases have been confirmed in Etosha Namibia since the de Vos report) but both these diseases appear rare whilst the most common cause of death from bacteria is associated with post-traumatic wound infection with streptococci and staphylococci (Clausen & Ashford, 1980) or bone infection evident from skulls.
Figure 17. Skull and lower jaw from a black rhino D.b. michaeli that died on Solio Ranch, Kenya (Kock, 1999). The presumptive diagnosis was lumpy jaw an infection (rare in horses) from exposure to soil contaminated with Actinomyces bovis from earlier cattle occupation of the range (Photo credit: Richard Kock).
Data on disease of rhino from Asia is relatively deficient although pasteurellosis and salmonellosis were diagnosed in cases during translocation to Dudhwa and other Terai sites. Some internal parasitic infections have been associated with mortality especially in young or stressed animals but these may be incidental findings14
The case for conservation of rhino parasites is no less pertinent than conservation for the rhino itself as co-evolution has led to some rhino specific parasites (e.g. rhino bots - Gyrostigma spp.). For example, there are over 40 recorded species of ticks and 40 helminth species from African rhino. Pre-translocation treatment or eradication of these would not necessarily be appropriate, but treatment of pre-release or boma managed animals might be if there is illness attributed to these parasites or their presence is considered a new introduction to the recipient site.
Trypanosomosis has been a problem for rhino exposed through translocation into tsetse fly zones with no prior exposure to trypanosomes. White rhino are more susceptible than the black rhino especially to T. brucei which causes encephalitis amongst other syndromes and death (Kock et al. 2007). Deaths have occurred with other species of Tryps e.g. 4/5 white rhino translocated to the Zambezi valley from KZN. These experiences and others strongly indicate that white rhino should not be translocated under any circumstances to areas of high tsetse and trypanosome challenge. On rare occasions with extreme stress and challenge black rhino can succumb and without previous exposure will show some anaemia, leukopaenia and thrombocytaemia (Clausen, 1981; Mihok et al., 1992, 1994; Kock et al., 1999). Use of targets and traps have had mixed success in preventing trypanosomosis in white rhino but are helpful with black rhino introductions (e.g. to North Luangwa in Zambia and Sasakwa in Tanzania).
Babesiosis and theileriosis have been recorded in the black rhino under stressful or unusual environmental conditions where insect “storms” resulting in heavy tick and parasite challenge occurred (Nijhof et al. 2003). Here the detection of a novel parasite and apparent susceptibility of the whole population of rhino raises questions as a recent rhino introduction had occurred from South Africa where babesia sp. have been recorded as pathogens in rhinoceros (Brocklesby, 1967). However in this case deaths occurred at a time animals in the recipient population were under nutritional stress and tick loads were high at the time due to a long period of no or little burning (P. Morkel, pers. comm.) and the uniquely favourable climatic conditions for insects (Munson et al., 2008). Since the introduction of control burning, return to normal climate variation and insect dynamics, and with less nutritional stress, no further rhinos have been lost to babesiosis. However, this might all be purely coincidental as increasing tolerance to an introduced babesia would be expected over time with adaptation of the rhino immune system to cope with the challenge. The return of any of the above stresses associated with disease will provide evidence of true cause and effect. A translocation recently of a Sumatran rhino ex situ to in situ captivity was vaccinated against babesia using a standard vaccine and it appears to have been challenged without ill effect (R. Radcliffe, pers. comm.).
Proximate causes of death should always be examined in light of predisposing factors.
International translocation needs to take account of veterinary infectious disease (OIE) requirements of the importing country and for this African Horse Sickness is an extra concern although clinical disease has never been recorded.
With so little known of infection in the rhino, any opportunity to handle a live animal or examine a carcass should involve a thorough examination and comprehensive biological sampling. Baseline studies are few with some work completed on internal parasite burdens but how significant the different species isolated are in disease pathogenesis, is poorly understood. With poaching as the main cause of death over the last 100 years in many areas it is unsurprising so little is known of disease epidemiology in rhino. However considerable work has been done (Schulz & Kluge, 1960; Round, 1964; Hitchins & Keep, 1970; Jessup et al., 1992; Windsor & Ashford, 1972; Keep & Besson, 1973; Silberman & Fulton, 1979; Clausen & Ashford, 1980; De Vos, 1980; Clausen, 1981; Soll & Williams, 1985; Kock & Kock, 1990; Kock et al., 1989; Kock et al., 1992a; Kock et al., 1992b; Mihok et al., 1992, 1994; Knapp et al., 1997; Kock et al., 1999, 2007, in prep; Fischer-Tenhagen et al., 2000; McCulloch & Achard, 1969; Williams et al., 2002; Nijhof et al., 2003). As populations recover and numbers increase disease patterns should emerge and will need to be studied.
For basic re-introduction screening protocols see Annexe 1.
As should be the case for all rhino deaths, any mortalities during or in the post-release phase should be investigated and a post mortem examination done to determine the cause(s) of death. In some countries and regions (e.g. SADC RMG, KWS) there may be a standardized mortality form that needs to be filled in and which will form part of annual status reporting.
If there are any indications that a dead rhino has been poached or the horn(s) is/are missing then the area should immediately be treated as a crime scene and access restricted to trained individuals. It is outside the scope of these guidelines to provide details on standard scene of the crime procedures which can be followed to maximise the useful information and forensic exhibits obtained from the crime scene whilst also ensuring that any evidence collected stands up in court. In Africa specialized scene of rhino crime training is available15 and this training has been shared with Asia. If a vet is first on the scene he/she can help secure the crime scene until a trained wildlife investigator is called in. However sometimes this might not be possible within a reasonable time frame, and given that vets are sometimes first on the scene it is advisable for rhino vets to also be included in scene of the crime training courses (along with senior park managers, specialized wildlife investigators and specialized police) so they can undertake a crime-scene investigation in the absence of a trained wildlife investigator/policeman.
If anthrax is suspected the carcass should not be cut or opened and the body should be covered in a black plastic sheet to ensure putrifaction proceeds, destroying the vegetative form of the organism and therefore reducing the likelihood of spore dispersal. Alternate methods of disposal are burying or burning but there is no need to do this as natural decay will recycle the carcass and in the case of rhino this will be technically difficult to achieve.
There will be rare occasions when a rhino needs to be destroyed, and the most likely reason is severe injury from fighting or during translocation. Where the wound or damage is likely fatal and cannot be treated e.g. fractured femur or humerus, it is a matter of animal welfare and the decision on euthanasia should be left to the veterinarian responsible at the time of the injury.
In India euthanasia of greater one-horned rhino requires a complex procedure including the ultimate decision being made by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State and this is enforced through the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. This situation is not ideal or considerate of animal welfare during intervention procedures. In most countries the responsibility for the welfare and where necessary, euthanasia or animals, lies with the mandated veterinarian involved with the procedure such as translocation and this is considered to be “best practice”.
There are animal welfare regulations in some countries which determine transportation conditions appropriate to each species. IATA provides guidance and regulations for international air transport and these general conditions are also appropriate for sea, road and rail transportation (IATA Live Animals Regulations (LAR) and can be obtained through the internet: http://www.iata.org/ps/publications/lar.htm). These should be referred to in the planning process including construction of transport crates and provision for journeys. This is not mandatory in some countries, such as India, but authorities are encouraged to consult the IATA and other experts before completing design and construction.
Rhino translocations generally involve socio-political considerations at local, national and even international levels. To ensure success, the proposed translocation should be fully understood, accepted and supported at all levels. Due consideration of socio-political issues is an important part of pre translocation planning. In many instances socio-political considerations will be as important as the biological, behavioural, veterinary, security, logistical and planning aspects.
Unlike many other species which have a limited potential for impacts, when translocating rhinos there are many critical factors to take into account. While rhinos may be viewed as an asset when they are associated with benefits through tourism related revenues at either the source or release sites, these benefits will, in some cases, need to be balanced against possible costs that the translocated rhinos may bring in terms of their high costs of routine monitoring and management, the added danger to staff, and in unfenced areas the possible damage they may do to neighbouring communities and their crops.
A well designed government wildlife policy can address many of the socio-political risks associated with rhino introductions. Once developed policy needs to be implemented at all stakeholder levels and modified as needed to adaptively deal with rapidly changing circumstances.
Potential loss of economic and other benefits that a community/conservation area may either currently receive, or perceive to be receiving from rhinos targeted for translocation from their areas may lead to rise in socio-political conflict between the wildlife agency undertaking the translocations and the communities/private land owners on whose land the rhinos involved live. Consultation will be particularly important well in advance of the removal of any rhino. There is no greater disincentive to local communities or the private sector for conserving rhinos in the future than to remove such a valuable asset without consultation. Negotiated mechanisms should be developed to directly or indirectly compensate affected stakeholders through a mediated process.
When rhinos are being managed on a custodian basis it is also essential that rhino custodians are informed well in advance, and preferably right at the outset of the initial founding of their population, that sometime in future, once densities have built up to specified levels, some animals will need to be routinely removed to keep the population productive. If custodians are only informed near to the time of planned removals from their areas this can cause significant problems.
Where one is seeking support of neighbouring communities in buffer zones around a park and encouraging them to build tourism ventures involving rhino (e.g. Chitwan NP in Nepal) it may not be a good idea to remove rhinos from or close to their areas unless this is absolutely necessary, and only after they have been engaged in the planning process.
When reintroducing rhinos into areas they have been absent from for some time it is a good idea to involve local VIPs and community leaders. In unfenced release sites, particularly where rhinos will be attracted to and have access to crop fields (e.g. Bardia NP, Nepal), concerted and targeted consultation with local communities in the immediate area must begin well in advance of any planned translocation.
A thorough assessment of local attitudes is necessary to ensure long-term security of the translocated animals. This is especially important if the original loss of rhinos at the release site was due to human activities.
Potential risks to life and property by the introduced rhinos should be minimised and adequate provision made by the wildlife authorities for compensation/mitigation measures where necessary.
Where release sites do or could hold trans-boundary populations or provide opportunity for transborder movements by the translocated rhinos, adequate consultation must take place with all the relevant neighbouring range states. A formal Memoranda of Understanding or Agreements should be signed at the highest possible political levels to document and ensure common understanding, commitment and joint management of these individuals.
There may also be educational opportunities to build community support for re-introduction programmes (as was done in the North Luangwa black rhino re-introduction in Zambia by getting local children to see rhinos at bomas prior to release, or talks/films at local schools during the black rhino range expansion project in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – this needs planning so that the release and capture can be filmed without compromising the capture and translocation process which should be undertaken with minimal disturbance).
Wherever rhino are to be released, there should be security of land tenure.
Area management committees linked to the national rhino conservation coordination structure should be established for more efficient coordination between all the local stakeholders.
Without proper budgeting, it is not possible to determine whether the resources available are sufficient to cater for all the costs involved in rhino translocations.
Insufficient funds, as a result of inadequate budgeting, or incomplete fundraising efforts, must not be used as an excuse for poorly planned or implemented translocations.
Properly drafted budgets are essential for successful fundraising. It is important always to strive for the most accurate cost forecasting possible. An inability to spend committed funds, or worse, overspending (without very good reason), will not be looked upon favourably by donor organizations.
Budgeting for a translocation operation should cover all costs of the operation and have a sufficient provision for contingencies or unforeseen expenses.
Budgets for long term monitoring, rhino protection and biological management should not be overlooked.
Translocation costs are not necessarily a constraint on a tight departmental budget if an efficient and cost effective method is used. For example, in Namibia single pickup vehicles and small trailers provide a highly cost effective method for capturing and moving rhino, involving small experienced teams. The use of small teams might mean slower rates of translocation but if spread over a capture season may still able to achieve set objectives, as is being done in Zimbabwe where a fixed wing aircraft is used to spot rhino, rhinos are darted from the ground, ground teams are guided in to where the rhino has gone down from the fixed-wing and where a rhino capture vehicle with crane and truck is used to transport animals singly. Swaziland has also designed and uses a portable trailer with rhino crate to move single rhinos when needed.
Large operations can be more expensive involving a lot of personnel, large vehicles and often larger teams than necessary, but these might be preferable if many rhino have to be moved from a number of parks over a short timeframe and where (expensive) helicopters are being used to do the darting.
Where a large specially adapted truck with a mass crate is available it is possible to transport six rhino at a time to their final destination.
In case of a translocation involving the movement of rhinos across international borders, both the source and recipient governments must have approved any funding proposal, before it is submitted to donors.
If the project is donor funded, it is important to ensure that all donor requirements, including the appropriate budget format, are understood before submitting the budget for approval.
Both cash and in-kind contributions should be included in the budget.
It is always important to provide detailed budget notes. This will help prospective donors to determine how the costs were arrived at, and will also act as a useful aide-mémoire when preparing future or revised budgets.
Project evaluation and financial audit costs (if required by the donor) should be taken into account.
Any administrative or management costs and cost recovery should be included.
Qualified staff must be available to do the accounting for the project expenditure. If staff have to be hired, their recruitment costs and salaries must be included in the project's budget.
Costing must be realistic and be based on current market rates.
Budgeting for operations that could take place more than a year into the future must take into account the effects of inflation and possible currency fluctuations.
One must not just budget for the translocations. It is essential to ensure there will be sufficient long-term funding for ongoing security, monitoring and biological management. If the latter is not in place then the translocation must not be undertaken.
The objectives of the translocation and the activities required to achieve them should be the primary focus of the budget and all budget lines must be clearly linked to the activities outlined in the proposal.
The number of rhino to be moved, how many animals are to be moved in a single shipment, and the age structure and composition of targeted individuals or cow-calf groups must be determined as early as possible as this will, in turn, determine the number of days, personnel, and type of equipment required.
The amount of food, fuel and maintenance for helicopters, fixed wing aircrafts, elephants, vehicles, tractors and machines, the distance of the capture site from the headquarters as well as distance from capture site to release site, including distances to be travelled within the capture and release sites must be estimated as carefully as possible.
The cost of radio transmitters and receivers, immobilization drugs, vehicle and personnel costs for pre-capture and post-release intensive monitoring can be a significant component of the overall budget and must be estimated as accurately as possible.
The cost for rhino management in boma and boma maintenance must also be estimated as accurately as possible. Logistics are critical. Feed provision is particularly important as bomas are often located in dry areas long distances from forage suppliers and collection of browse can be highly labour intensive and which rangers/scouts might be reluctant to do. Without proper supervision and management there will be a tendency to restrict feeding or have gaps which will be detrimental on the animal's health. In at least one case, failure to adequately feed rhino over an extended boma management period occurred with loss of condition which led to management conflict. This with failure to supply security rangers/scouts with water in dry observation points led to sackings and subsequent poaching was encouraged and supported by staff and ex-staff of the management authority. After the fuss and publicity of the physical part of rhino translocation there is still a job to be done and the staff left over to provide security and sustenance to rhino must be recognised and supported. The hiring of an experienced boma manager is recommended.
Any consultancy payments to be made to the members of the multidisciplinary team or other specialized expertise must also be budgeted for.
As unexpected events during translocation operations are common, a reasonable contingency budget to cater for such developments should be included. It is therefore recommended that all budgets should include a 10% contingency.
Translocation proposals should, as far as possible, not be packaged as emergency appeals to donors. Ideally, translocations should fall within existing 5–10 year national rhino management plans to ensure adequate time for planning, fundraising and implementation. While donor requirements may vary it is normally recommended that the budget be laid out in such a way that it covers all the four main categories of operation costs, Planning, Pre-capture, Implementation and Post-release. Examples of the types of costs to be included under each heading are given in Table 1.
In Asia elephants used for darting must be budgeted for (including their food and maintenance). Similarly helicopters and/or fixed wing aircraft and fuel need to be budgeted for if being used in Africa.
Table 4. Translocation costs (excluding long term cost implications for ongoing rhino protection, monitoring and biological management).
Sometimes the needs for rhino protection (which are easiest to achieve in small, highly defended fenced sanctuaries) conflict with the needs for maximizing the potential for population expansion (du Toit 2006). Holistic decision-making is required to balance the rewards in biological management of rhinos (i.e. encouraging population growth in both donor and recipient areas by spreading rhinos to new areas) against the risks (i.e. exposing the rhinos to poaching in less secure areas).
Despite increases in rhino numbers in some species in some countries, the threats facing Asian and Africa rhino remain serious given the illegal demand for rhino horn in end user markets (either as a traditional Chinese medicine ingredient in SE Asia or for making ceremonial dagger handles in countries such as Yemen). The international horn trade ban and the domestic bans imposed in most traditional user states have driven the trade further underground, in some cases inflating prices and making illegal dealing even more lucrative. Despite efforts to close down the illegal horn trade, the illegal demand for horn persists and as a result the threat of a return to large-scale poaching is ever present. Worryingly rhino poaching has escalated recently (especially in South Africa and Zimbabwe) in the face of increasing illegal horn values which presumably reflect an increasing illegal demand. Wars, civil unrest, poverty, influxes of refugees, and internal corruption within some range states result in poachers often escaping arrest and poverty-stricken people becoming poachers to survive.
However, despite poaching threats experience has shown that given the political will, stability and adequate field expenditure, rhinos can be successfully conserved in the wild. It is not an accident that rhinos have increased rapidly in some countries and gone extinct in others. Any country looking to re-establish rhino therefore needs to be aware that this is a big responsibility and will require significant long term investment and political will as well as manpower, capital and community engagement.
Ironically it is not the proximity of a protected area to people that necessarily results in poaching, as many successful breeding locations have demonstrated (e.g. Nairobi National Park is adjacent to slums with literally millions of poor people with almost no poaching recorded). The vulnerability to poaching is more a result of perceived risk to benefit ratio for the criminal. Rhino are also dangerous animals and require an extended pre-attack planning period and knowledge of the terrain, rhino behavior and movement patterns. Quiet remote areas with thick bush terrain therefore can provide a degree of natural protection. Local knowledge and support may be given to poachers if there are poor relationships between the Protected Area management and communities. The corollary also holds where neighbouring communities in areas with good neighhbour relations have assisted park authorities by providing intelligence and early warnings of planned poaching attempts or arresting poachers as seen recently seen in Bardia NP. Deterrence is therefore not just a matter of military force.
As conservation budgets continue to decline, the greatest challenges for the future of the rhinos is maintaining sufficient conservation expenditure and capacity for field action. Unless income increases from donors and other sources, or costs are reduced without affecting effectiveness, conservation programmes will be jeopardised.
As general rule, proposed sites where the immediate and long-term security of the re-introduced or translocated rhino will be challenged should not be viable options.
Minimum security for the existing and introduced populations should be ensured at the release site as history has shown protection effort needs to exceed minimum threshold levels to be effective (Leader-Williams 1988; Leader-Williams 1996; Leader-Williams et al. 1990). Security needs for the protection of rhino present a particular challenge in very large conservation areas (>3,000 sq. km) where restricted budgets are rarely able to support the required level of protection. Therefore, from a security perspective, smaller release sites (<3,000 sq. km) but which are large enough to support a viable population in the long term, may present better options for rhino re-introductions and translocations in the short to medium term.
Regardless of the size of the chosen release site, the following security precautions should be in place:
Adequate levels of appropriately trained and well equipped and armed law enforcement and monitoring staff. A ratio of 10–20 sq. km per man (well equipped and trained enforcement staff) has been demonstrated to be an effective staffing level for the protection of rhino in Africa. In larger areas, (>200 km square), ground surveillance should be supplemented by a mobile specialist anti-poaching unit that can help in an emergency and also act as an internal check on other field ranger patrols (Emslie & Brooks, 1999). The combination of picket camps situated in peripheral high risk areas, complimented by an independent anti-poaching unit has proved to be extremely effective in combating poaching in big and small areas. Patrolling buffer zones around parks to detect incursions of poachers early is also a useful strategy if such zones exist around the park or rhino concentration area. In larger parks with rhinos the manpower density of at least one man per 20km2 need not be maintained throughout the whole area if rhinos are not spread throughout, but only in the sections that contain rhino concentrations (du Toit, Mungwashu & Emslie, 2006)
In Asia, manpower densities of over 1 man per sq. km may be needed to ensure poaching is minimised.
Adequate annual operational budgets to support the field force in all their operations. The amount will vary according to local conditions but should be sufficient to support the capital investment for elephants (Asia), vehicles, fuel, equipment and construction of suitable field ranger/scout camps and related infrastructure.
A dedicated law enforcement strategy, including the existence of a properly planned and functioning intelligence network. This will involve the use of informers in local communities to support the networks' operations. It may also involve close collaboration with the national police and/or military in the area. It is also important to create a good working relationship with the prosecuting agency who take poaching cases through the courts. Experience has shown this to be a crucial aspect of effective law enforcement. Given the increasing involvement of organized criminal syndicates in rhino poaching, it is important that neighbouring wildlife and law enforcement agencies share information, as some of these gangs operate across a number of provinces and even countries.
A standardized system for monitoring law enforcement effort and rhino. This should be based on the protocols developed at a strategic level and disseminated to all levels of enforcement/compliance staff.
An effective community engagement programme is in place particularly aiming the poor marginalized communities surrounding rhino areas. This includes the buffer zone initiatives in Asia to community outreach programmes in Africa.
An effective human wildlife conflict control programme is in place in unfenced areas (e.g. Bardia National Park, Nepal)
In addition to this, the selection of potential release sites should be carefully considered and the following high risk areas should where possible be avoided.
Areas situated on international boundaries outside of trans-frontier conservation areas. Border areas bring additional security concerns and challenges. Overcoming these challenges requires close cooperation and coordination of law enforcement agencies between neighbouring countries, which may be compromised during times of instability.
Areas where major development activities, such as road building or other infrastructural construction projects, large-scale agricultural schemes, or major extraction or exploitation industries are taking place. There are clear indications that such areas present high security challenges due to the increase in human activities and the transient nature of the settlements, which form around these activities.
Areas where there is existing civil instability war or an immediate threat instability in the recipient country or neighbouring nations. Civil disturbance (and the accompanying flow of arms or planting of land mines) combined with a temporary break down of law and order have always presented a high risk to the security of rhino populations in Africa (e.g. Garamba National Park) and Asia (e.g. Manas National Park).
Areas where there is already a high incidence of human-rhino conflict, even if the conflict is created by relatively few remaining rhino. A high incidence of human rhino conflict can lead to rhino being killed both legally and illegally in protection of life and property. These are not appropriate release sites for translocated rhino, particularly for those that were “problem animals” in their previous homes.
Where a single horn can provide significant amounts of income to a poacher in areas where people live in poverty at high densities with low rates of local employment, rhino can become an important target species for poachers.
Where rhinos are legally the property of the State irrespective of the land tenure system, translocation decisions should be approved by the State body in charge of wildlife management, (e.g. for black rhinos in Kenya by the Kenya Wildlife Service and in Namibia by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism). Veterinary interventions and movements should also be approved by and led by the relevant government authority. Where rhinos are privately owned, then a legal regulatory framework must be established to ensure translocations procedures are followed.
Both national and international legal considerations must be observed. Veterinary laws should also be observed.
CITES regulations must be adhered to and all relevant CITES permits need to be obtained.
Governments need to clearly set out a policy of wildlife and rhino ownership issues as this will govern possible translocation options.
Formal approval of Public-Private partnerships may be required. However this may not be needed if conservation agency is dictating management and retaining ownership of founder rhino as is the case in the KwaZulu-Natal black rhino range expansion project.
Contractual obligations and reporting requirements of recipients should be built into contracts of rhino custodians (e.g. as done in Namibia and in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
Other contractual conditions may hold – for example it was a condition of the sale of the out of range D.b.michaeli population at Addo National Park to a private owner that this owner cannot sell or give away any of these rhinos within South Africa, and they should rather be sold to zoos or be repatriated to eastern black rhino natural range.
Import and export permits may be needed to transport rhino from one region to another within a country.
A valid permit may be required for a government or provincial conservation agency before one can introduce or keep rhinos on a property.
National wildlife act is updated to ensure strict penalties for rhino / wildlife poaching.
4 For more details of suggested black rhino harvesting strategies for growth see the RMG Black Rhino Biological Management Workshop Proceedings (Emslie, 2001) available on the AfRSG web page.
5 This approach will not hold in arid areas with high coefficients of variation in rainfall. In such cases maximum long term stocking densities will instead be limited by food availability during low rainfall periods, and the population density may never approach potential ECC of the area during wetter years.
6 This is calculated as the sum of the number of months each known female has been an adult (>7 years) in a population divided by the number of calves born. This produces an indicator similar to the observed inter-calving interval, but unlike the latter, this measure also includes data for adult females which are not breeding or which have not had more than one calf yet.
2However, there may be an initial settling-in period of a couple of years after establishing a new population before rapid population growth occurs.
7 Trypanosomosis denotes primarily any production, increase or invasion within an animal of parasites, and with black rhino it is more a general health issue than a disease per se. Trypanosomiasis indicates an unhealthy state due to tryps and is more consistent with disease.
8 See Definitions section for a definition
9 Stray means rhino that periodically leave the protected areas to forage in adjacent farmland. In some cases like Pabitora this is almost nightly especially during winter months. They are only a considered a problem when they do not return within a reasonable period of time of a week or more.
10 In Etosha NP, Namibia in 2002 81.2% of all black rhino rhino sightings from aerial surveys and block counts occurred from 2.5km to 10km from water holes, and 95.9% of all sightings occurred within 12.5km of waterholes. Only 1.13% of 2002 sightings occurred further than 14km from a waterhole (Emslie, du Preez & Robertson 2004)
11 Thus if a population is founded with four adult males, and six adult females (each of which has one calf) the effective founder population is not 16 but from 10 to 13 depending on the degree to which the fathers of the six calves were likely to be any of the four adult males imported.
12 In South Africa a large and highly productive AfRSG-rated Continentally Key 1 rhino population of over a 100 D.b.minor has been established in the Great Fish River Reserve; but following a revision of subspecies boundaries, this Reserve is now deemed to be out of range for that subspecies. However, due to its importance to subspecies metapopulation performance and species conservation, and on pragmatic logistical and cost grounds it is recommended this Key population be maintained as out of range populations provided there is no possible way that out of range D. b. minor animals can be able to access and breed with deemed indigenous D. b. bicornis animals. This can be done with adequate fencing.
13 Creosote poles should never be used to build rhino bomas.
14 3/7 black rhino during acclimation to bomas died apparently with heavy infestation thought to have contributed to their deaths; but whether these contributed to death is not certain and filariasis with associated ulcerative dermatitis is common but of little impact.
15 Contact AfRSG or SADC RESG for more details.
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