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Kenyan conservationists root for partnerships to save black rhinos

By Xinhua | May 25th 2015

NAIROBI, KENYA: The Kenyan government should forge strategic linkages with communities, charitable groups and businesses to revitalize protection of black rhinos, leading conservationists said on Saturday.

Christian Lambrechts, the CEO of Rhino Charge, a charity trust, noted that active participation of key stakeholders has strengthened the protection of black rhinos and their habitat.

"There has been a marked improvement in the conservation of black rhinos in Kenya thanks to public private partnerships. Kenya is quite advanced when it comes to wildlife protection," said Lambrechts.

He spoke to Xinhua ahead of the 27th edition of Rhino Charge, a motorsport competition to be held in Kenya's northern frontier to raise funds for rhino conservation.

His organization has since 1989 raised funds to promote conservation of black rhino habitats located in the Aberdare, Mt Kenya and Mau water towers.

According to him, Kenya and other African countries with a significant black rhino population should not license their hunting by private individuals.

Lambrechts stressed that a ban on wildlife hunting should not be lifted in order to protect endangered species like rhinos and elephants.

"Even a partial lift on wildlife hunting ban will open a floodgate of illegal activities inside the parks," Lambrechts remarked.

He condemned the killing of a black rhino in Namibia by a wealthy American hunter.

Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe are home to an estimated 2,500 population of black rhinos.

"The loss of black rhinos to poaching peaked between 2008-2013. The situation has stabilized, though we need to invest more to reverse depletion of their habitats," said Lambrechts.

Community-led initiatives to conserve black rhino habitats had profound impacts.

Lambrechts noted that fencing of Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests reduced poaching of black rhinos while securing new revenue streams for communities.

He added that a partnership with county governments, communities and Kenya Wildlife Service has strengthened protection of black rhinos in the Aberdare and Mt Kenya forest ecosystems.

"We need to mobilize communities to protect their wildlife heritage. They are better placed to provide intelligence on individuals involved in poaching," said Lambrechts.

The Spokesman, Kenya Wildlife Service, Paul Udoto told Xinhua the East African nation's black rhino population stood at 640.

Kenya's wildlife agency has partnered with private conservancies and communities to protect black rhinos from poaching.

"We have one of the most critically endangered rhino species and have partnered with various groups to protect it from human and environmental threats," said Udoto.

He disclosed that rhino poaching has declined drastically thanks to robust community engagement and use of modern technology to track their movements.

"We lost only three rhinos in the last quarter while communities have supported our efforts to save this species," Udoto told Xinhua.

He revealed that 20 rhinos will be relocated to a private conservancy.

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