Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925399
Founded in 1995, the not-for-profit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) is a private wildlife conservancy of 62,000 acres located in northern Kenya on the eastern edge of the Laikipia plains and northern foothills of Mt Kenya (see Figure 1). The Conservancy was originally a cattle ranch. In 1983, as a response to increased poaching of rhinos in Kenya, 5,000 acres were set aside to create the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary. In 1995, the entire ranch was turned into a fully fenced wildlife conservancy. LWC’s mission is to work as a catalyst for conservation of wildlife and its habitat through the protection and management of species, the initiation and support of community conservation and development programmes and the education of neighbouring areas in the value of wildlife. One of the fundamental objectives of LWC is to conserve threatened species within its area of operation and provide protected habitats for other species under pressure outside LWC. The Conservancy supports abundant wildlife including a population of 65 endangered black rhino (at least 10% of Kenya’s black rhino) and 46 white rhino (12% of Kenya’s population), making it one of the most important sanctuaries for these species in East Africa. The conservancy also provides refuge to one of the largest single population of endangered Grevy’s zebra (approximately 350). LWC promotes conservation both within its boundaries and in the ecologically important community-owned areas to its North (under the Northern Rangelands Trust), as well as providing support to anti-poaching operations in other private rhino sanctuaries and wildlife reserves in Laikipia District and on Mt. Kenya. Lewa’s growing black rhino population is a testament to the success of the Conservancy’s wildlife security operations. In 2008 alone, the population of rhinos increased at a rate of 12% with 15 calves (7 black and 8 white) having been born in the year.
This high birth rate was replicated between May 2009 and January 2010 when nine calves were born (7 blacks and 2 whites). This growth rate is way above the National metapopulation projection of 6% per annum. During 2008 and 2009, the demand for rhino horn and ivory was noted to escalate exponentially and therefore, it was vital that the LWC security personnel remained on vigilant 24-hour guard against this threat. All along, it has not been a case of “IF” but a case of “WHEN” a poaching attempt will be made on LWC's rhino. Anti-poaching and security operations continue to account for a large portion of the LWC annual budget; after all security of wildlife, primarily endangered species, is our main objective. Up and until, November 2009, LWC had not lost any rhino to poaching and this is testament to the successful antipoaching operations that LWC has carried out over the last 24 years. This achievement was however tested on the 26th December 2009 when one black rhino was poached at night and the second one was wounded in the process. LWC's rapid reaction team swang into action and the poachers left without chopping off the horns. The second rhino that was wounded has made good recovery.
Presently, Lewa is exploring possibilities of increasing the range that is available to black rhinos by amalgamating with the neighbouring 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy. This will ensure that LWC's will be maintained at below the ecological carrying capacity for the population to continue achieving maximum productivity. Once amalgamated, the two areas will have a potential to hold over 100 black rhinos. This will indeed be a significant achievement for black rhino conservation in Kenya.
Project 0925399 location - Kenya, Africa