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Kenya Wildlife Service set for rhino census in Tsavo sanctuary

Date Published: 26 Mar, 2010
Kenya Wildlife Service set for rhino census in Tsavo sanctuary

Black rhinos at a water hole during a night animal count in Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, Tsavo West National Park. Photo courtesy; KWS Rhino Program

The Kenya Wildlife Service plans to conduct a census at the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in the vast Tsavo West National.  The count, to be carried out between July and October, aims to ascertain the numbers and distribution of the rhino population.The number of black rhinos at the sanctuary has been steadily rising since 1992 when the first count was conducted. At that time, the area had an estimated number of 17 black rhinos. However, during last year’s count the number had risen to 60. This accounts to nearly 10 per cent of the total black rhino population in the country. Currently, there are around 635 black and about 354 white rhinos in Kenya. Despite the devastating drought that hit the country for the better part of last year, no single rhino death was reported at the sanctuary. Mr Benson Okita, the KWS Senior Scientist in charge of the Rhino Programme, predicts a slight delay in birth numbers attributed to the prolonged drought. “However, we still expect this year round the numbers to go up again,” he says. Massive conservation efforts by the KWS and other wildlife stakeholders are finally starting to give results as black rhino numbers are on the rise after years of decline from poaching and habitat loss.
The dry months of July through to October are selected as this is the time that all the natural watering points dry up, leaving only the artificial water holes that the rhinos can drink from.  The exercise is carried out at night during clear full moon at the five artificial water holes in the sanctuary. The census team uses specialised equipment such as cameras, night vision goggles, infra red pointers and torches. KWS aims to increase Kenya’s black rhino population to 2000 by 2035 through the expansion of existing rhino sanctuaries and through the establishment of new protected areas that can accommodate future population growth.

By Dennis Kibet


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