South Africa’s rhino populations must be managed so that the animals can “bonk at the maximum rate” and churn out calves to serve as a buffer against the poaching onslaught.
Biological management of rhino was about ensuring “you keep taking animals out of the populations who are well-established… to make sure we keep them productive. Then we invest them in new areas where there’s potential for growth,” said Dr Richard Emslie, of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, yesterday.
He was speaking at a national rhino conservation workshop, convened by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“Effectively, we’re rhino investment-banking. We’re trying to get the highest overall metapopulation growth rate we can, because rhinos are just the same as managing your investment. The greater the return you can get, you can compound that return. Just these small differences in growth can translate to hundreds more rhinos in a short time.
“And if we’re facing a security threat, one of the best things we can do is grow rhinos as fast as we can, because that gives us just that little bit more buffer.”
Emslie said poor biological management could “end up losing you more rhino than we are losing now through poaching”. But investing in new populations, through translocation, for example, freed up food supplies for the populations that remained.
“This makes sure that the animals left behind are on a good nutritional plane to churn out calves. We want the animals bonking at the maximum rate as fast as they can.
“All the state reserves that can have white rhino, have got them… We need more range for rhinos. That will be reliant on the private sector and the community to provide the additional areas of land.”
The private sector held over 5 000 rhino – more than the rest of Africa – but was battling huge security costs to keep their rhino safe.
“So if there’s something that could increase the incentives for them, that could… help grow rhino numbers.
“One of the issues that perhaps will need to be considered… is how many rhino are enough… Would we like to see 30 000 or 40 000?
“If we would like to see more rhino… we will have to have economic incentives to grow numbers on private land and (that of) communities.” -Saturday Star