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Black rhinos find new home on community land in South Africa


KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – A group of black rhinos has been successfully released into a community-owned game reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a move seen by environmentalists as a boost to conserving the endangered species.

The release of 11 rhinos into the Somkhanda Game Reserve is part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project — a partnership between WWF and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife — to increase suitable land available for a viable black rhino population.

Once the most numerous rhino species in the world, today, there are only an estimated 3,700 left in the wild.

“Working with both communal and private landowners is essential for the future of rhino conservation,” said Khulani Mkhize, CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO.

Somkhanda Game Reserve is owned by the Gumbi community, which claimed the area as part of South Africa’s post-apartheid land restitution process. Rather than settling the land, community leaders decided to zone it for economic sustainability, including wildlife conservation and tourism activities.

“Empowering local communities to become stakeholders is a priority in conservation and Somkhanda is an example where it is really starting to happen,” said WWF’s Dr Jacques Flamand, head of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

“This is very important for the long-term security of the black rhino and other endangered species.”

Somkhanda Game Reserve is the first community land to be involved with the WWF-supported project. The first three were privately held partner sites in KwaZulu-Natal Province: Mun-ya-wana Game Reserve, Zululand Rhino Reserve and Pongola Game Reserve.

“The Gumbi leadership has shown courage and foresight…,” said Rejoice Mabudafhasi, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, who attended the rhino release.

“As the first community to become partners in this important project, they are pioneering a way that we hope many others will follow.”


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