Many southern white rhino are now concentrated within protected areas such as fenced sanctuaries, conservancies, rhino conservation areas and intensive protection zones. Effective management strategies have resulted in surplus animals being translocated to set up new populations within and outside the species’ former range. In a number of countries, populations are now managed by both the state and the private sector, increasing their long-term security. Selling limited sport hunting of surplus males, for example, attracts large revenues and powerful incentives for private sector conservation, and generates much needed funds to help pay the high cost of successfully monitoring, protecting and managing rhino. All rhino were listed on CITES Appendix I by 1977, prohibiting international commercial trade in the species and their products. Following the continued rise in numbers of the southern white rhinoceros subspecies, however, the South African population was downlisted in 1994 to Appendix II, but only for trade in live animals to ‘approved and acceptable destinations’ and for the (continued) export of hunting trophies (1). Domestic anti-trade measures and legislation were also implemented in the 1990s to help reduce illegal trade (1), and some game managers immobilise white rhinos and remove their horns to deter poachers (4).
There are a number of regional and continental African rhino conservation initiatives that advise on or support effective conservation programmes. These include the IUCN SSC’s African Rhino Specialist Group, the SADC Rhino Management and Rhino Recovery Groups, the Rhino and Elephant Security Group and the SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation (15). Thanks to the concerted efforts of conservationists, researchers and concerned individuals, particularly in South Africa, southern white rhinos have recovered from just a single population of between 20 and 50 animals in 1895 to about 17,500 today, with an additional 750 animals in captive breeding institutions worldwide, and are now the most abundant kind of rhino in the world (1) (10) (13). Rescued from near extinction a century ago, this subspecies stands as one of the world's greatest conservation success stories (6). Nevertheless, poaching pressure remains an ever-present threat and, with 99% of all southern white rhinos occurring in only four countries, the subspecies is still vulnerable and we cannot become complacent about its conservation (8).
Sadly, the outlook for the northern white rhino doesn’t look so bright. The Garamba project had managed to conserve the population at about 30 rhinos from the late 1980’s up to 2003, but an upsurge in poaching resulted in it declining to only 4 animals in 2006. The most recent surveys have failed to find any evidence of this subspecies in Garamba National Park. If the northern white rhino has now become extinct in the wild, its survival may now depend upon the successful breeding of the small number of rhinos held at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic (1).