There will be 2,000 more rhinos in the wild within the next decade, thanks to a South African conservationist group heading one of the continent's largest rewilding programs of any species.
The nonprofit group, African Parks, announced it had purchased the world's largest captive rhino breeding operation named "Platinum Rhino," which was put up for auction Aug. 23 as a result of financial stress. The more than 7,800-hectare property never got any bids, putting the 2,000 southern white rhinos at the farm at risk of being poached, African Parks said.
African Parks was asked by multiple concerned conservationists to step in to help the near-threatened species, and after securing emergency funding and gaining support from the South African government, the group was able to become the new owners of the farm and its 2,000 rhinos.
"African Parks has one clear objective: to rewild these rhinos over the next 10 years to well-managed and secure areas, establishing or supplementing strategic populations, thereby de-risking the future of the species," African Parks said in its announcement.
This isn't the first effort of its nature for African Parks, which manages 22 protected areas across the continent. The group has rewilded rhinos to Rwanda, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Still, it said it had no intention of taking on another mission like this, but it recognized the "moral imperative" of putting the animals back in their ecosystems.
"The scale of this undertaking is simply enormous, and therefore daunting," said Peter Fearnhead, African Parks CEO. "However, it is equally one of the most exciting and globally strategic conservation opportunities. We will be working with multiple governments, funding partners and conservation organizations, who are committed to making this rewilding vision a reality."
Though the northern white rhino is functionally extinct, with just two females left in the world, the amount of southern white rhinos has increased through effective conservation efforts like this, though poaching still remains a threat.
The animal was thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, the World Wildlife Fund said, but a small population of fewer than 100 found in South Africa in 1895 helped the southern white rhino now become classified as near threatened, with less than 16,000 existing now, according to the International Rhino Foundation.
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