Published: Thursday 31 August 2000

There has been a rise in the number of two species of rhinoceros, the black rhino ( Diceros bicornis ) and the white rhino ( Ceratotherium simum ) in Africa, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( iucn ) and World Wide Fund for Nature( wwf ).

According to Martin Brooks, chairman of the specialist group, the numbers of two of the six African rhino subspecies remains to be very low and invasions on private land in Zimbabwe by war veterans and squatters currently poses a threat to the rhino population. The white rhino, rescued from near extinction a century ago, stands as one of the world's greatest conservation success stories. Its population has increased to 10,300 in 1999 from approximately 20 in 1895, with 94 per cent of the increase taking place in South Africa.

In recent years, the implementation of effective conservation strategies involving government agencies, local communities, non-governmental organisations and private landowners in South Africa has played a major role in stabilising and gradually restoring the rhino population. A combination of measures, including financial assistance from wwf and other donors, has helped in the conservation programme, the expense of which is nearly us $1,000 per 2 kilometres every year. However, the conservation programme suffers from some drawbacks, including the continuing decline in government funding and reduced staff levels in some states. Illegal demand for their horns, unemployment, poverty, demand for land and internal instability are some other factors which also pose a threat to the rhino population. "One of the greatest challenges facing the future of rhinos in Africa is maintaining sufficient conservation expenditure and field effort," says Brooks.

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