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KWS successfully conducts Rhino Exercise in Tsavo East
Date Published: 13 Oct, 2010
KWS vets and rangers working on an immobilized black rhino in Tsavo East National Park.
The Kenya Wildlife Service successfully held an ear notching exercise on the endangered black rhinos at Tsavo East National Park from 5th to 8th October, 2010. The four day exercise also included counting and fitting of transmitters on the rhinos.
This was aimed at refining estimates of rhino numbers in the area, determining their distribution and improving on individual rhino identification, monitoring and security.
The exercise was carried out by experts that included veterinary doctors, GIS specialists, wildlife security personnel and research scientists who were divided into aerial and ground teams.
The aerial team comprised of specialists in three husky aircrafts and a helicopter responsible for searching and identifying the rhinos. Upon sighting, the team would immobilise the animal through the use of darts.
The ground team of about 20 specialists from the KWS capture team, would swiftly after move in to ear-notch the rhino and fit it with a transmitter while recording its other physical features to determine its age and place of origin. The whole exercise takes less than half an hour.
The animal’s front horn was also tipped off during the process. KWS officials said this was done to discourage poaching around the Tsavo East area which has experienced significant rhino poaching incidences since 2001.
KWS Tsavo East Senior Warden, Mr. Yusuf Adan said the exercise was important in aiding efforts to conserve the rhino.
“The animal has already been classified as endangered with the Far East providing a ready market for its horns, “Yusuf said. “Hence, there is a strong need to protect and conserve these animals for future generations. Monitoring and tracking their movements ascertains their location as well as distribution,” he added.
KWS Senior Scientist and National Rhino Programme Coordinator, Mr. Ben Okita, warned the rhino would become extinct unless conservation efforts were stepped up by all stakeholders.
“We are currently ensuring maximum protection around the clock for the rhino. We are also revising the existing penalties to deter poachers,” Okita affirmed.
The black rhino is listed top in the International World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) list of endangered animals.
A further census and fitting of transmitters will be conducted in February next year with focus on the northern parts of the Tsavo Conservation Area.
A comprehensive report of the exercise is underway with a publication of the same being produced.
Massive efforts by KWS and other wildlife stakeholders have seen the rhino numbers increase steadily after years of decline from poaching and habitat loss. Currently, there are slightly over 630 black and 350 white rhinos in Kenya.
Tsavo Conservation Area alone is estimated to hold about 10 percent of the total black rhino population in the country.
Despite the devastating drought that hit the country for the better part of last year, the rhino maintained its steady population.
KWS aims to increase Kenya’s black rhino population to 2000 by 2035 through expansion of existing rhino sanctuaries and the establishment of new protected areas that can accommodate future population growth.