Rhino Conservation

In the last five years commercial poaching of rhino has escalated to unsustainable levels.  Poachers are killing black and white rhino at a rapid rate all in an effort to sell the horn illegally on the black market.  Rhino horn is composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. In many eastern countries the rhino horn is sought after on the black market as cultural medicine for ailments as well as a status symbol. There is no scientific evidence that the claims for the benefits of rhino horn as a medical cure are true. These uses for rhino horn are simply the demand spawned by centuries of cultural inaccuracy about traditional uses and benefits. Unfortunately, the rhino are the ones that suffer in the end. Currently the IUCN lists the Black Rhino as critically endangered and the White Rhino as Near Threatened.  Today there are less than 25,000 black and white rhino remaining.  Black rhino numbers are down to about 5,000.


Conservation of Rhino in Zimbabwe    

Zimbabwe hosts both black and white rhino species, mainly on private estate and protected wildlife areas in Zimbabwe.   In 2015 VFWT has been involved in immobilizing more than 80 rhino for anti-poaching, translocation, and snare removal purposes.  Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Chris Foggin has worked with local stakeholders to move rhino to Botswana, assisted with snare removals throughout the region, and immobilized rhino for anti-poaching measures.  Every animal that is immobilized VFWT take samples from to analyze general health, as well as for DNA to be used in our genetics project.

Rhino Genetics

The DNA analysis from the samples will tell us for each population in Zimbabwe which rhino are related. Over the years many rhino have been translocated to other areas. The genetics from the DNA analysis provides us with a broad picture as to the overall relatedness of the remaining animals in protected areas. This will assist the local authorities in making management decisions as to which animals they might want to move to other areas in an effort to increase genetic variability. An additional benefit of the DNA analysis is that for every animal we now know its genetic makeup. Should any of these animals be poached we will always have their information on file. If rhino horn is confiscated we are able to take a sample of DNA to match back to the existing DNA results from the rhino we have immobilized and tested. This aids in the prosecution of the individuals involved in the illegally selling the horn.

Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust thanks Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and SAVE Foundation for generously funding conservation of Rhino in Zimbabwe

Donations assist us with covering the costs of immobilization of rhino and banking of DNA