#Conservation: Sanctuary celebrates first Black Rhino birth

PHOTO: Northern Rangelands Trust
PHOTO: Northern Rangelands Trust

The Sera Community Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya celebrated the first Black Rhino calf being born in the community-owned sanctuary on 11th of March, 2016.

The calf made history by being the first black rhino to be born on community land in northern Kenya for over 25 years, and demonstrates the strength of the growing community conservation movement. The calf also represents the community’s hopes that the Sanctuary can nurture a viable breeding population of black rhino; that could eventually help repopulate other community conservation areas.

The new mother, a black rhino named Naitamany, was translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to Sera in May 2015, as part of a ground-breaking project to reintroduce black rhino to Samburu. The area was once a stronghold for the now endangered species. A collaboration between the Northern Rangelands Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and others saw Sera Rhino Sanctuary become the first community-owned and operated black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and one of only a handful on the continent. The birth brings the current population to 11, with 10 more individuals expected to be translocated this year from other parks and reserves in Kenya.

Edwin Kisio, Wildlife Monitoring Officer from Lewa, confirmed that this is Naitamany’s fouth calf. She was just under 6 years old when she had her first calf, and has an average inter calving interval (ICI) of 2.7 years. A productive female black rhino will have an ICI of between 2 to 3 years.

The Sera Community Conservancy is a member of the Northern Rangelands Trust, an umbrella organisation that supports 33 community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya. Sera is governed by a democratically elected board and run by local people, and works to transform local livelihoods through conservation and sustainable enterprises. They have dedicated rhino monitors, who patrol the area every day recording individual rhino’s movements, behaviour and health. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, one of the largest black rhino sanctuaries in East Africa, provides logistical and technical support to these rangers, as well as supporting the overall security and monitoring in Sera.

According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature, populations of the Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting. However, Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimate of 640. It is projected to rise significantly in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations.