Written by: Simon Morgan
I wish I could tell you where a rhino has been sighted, but the sad truth is in doing so might jeopardise this rare, in-situ population of rhino and their potential to grow again into a feasible and contributing population. So let us just say it’s a country that you would never had thought to still have rhino and one for which there haven’t been reports on rhino for a very long time.
I had the fortune of visiting this region recently to assist the national authorities in a feasibility assessment. Wildlife ACT was to assist with the collection of baseline data on wildlife populations in recently declared and soon to be declared national parks. While out in one of these areas, I heard about a report of a field-ranger who had collected rhino dung samples a year and half ago. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and sought him out to hear the story for myself and see where he had found the dung. I was fortunate enough to have the same field-ranger allocated to us for our stay giving me plenty of time to ask him about it all.
On our way into the park, he started his story about not only finding rhino dung but of the sighting he had of a rhino itself! I couldn’t believe that I was listening to the last visual account of rhino by a conservationist and that it had happened only 18 months ago. It was easy to pick up that this was clearly a black rhino, based on the translated account of the sighting and the dung collected, coupled with the hand gesturing and the noises made, and the fact that the field-guide had ended up in a tree.
He was clearly taken by the sighting and it was truly inspiring to see the pride he had towards this animal and the fact that it represented a potential breeding population in his country. The region where he had seen the rhino is in a portion of the park that is completely wilderness – no roads, no infrastructure. With limited, to no budget, the park authorities have left this outlying area to look after itself. As a result, there has been no formal patrolling since the sighting.
To further complicate matters, two warring tribes use the outer reaches and boundary regions of this wilderness area of the park to mount insurgencies against one another. Park officials have to keep a close ear to the ground before heading into the region.
There is great scope for the future conservation of rhino in this wilderness, given this wilderness area shares a boundary to a neighbouring country’s national park. We just need to know they are in there and perhaps we can garner support for the authorities to at least patrol the region and start securing the future for the last rhino of …
Wildlife ACT, in collaboration with a private sponsor, is assisting the local conservation authorities in organising an expedition, led by the field-guide, into this wilderness block to run transects to seek for signs of this remnant population.