Zoo's white rhino success

COSTS of a programme to release white rhinos into a South African nature reserve have been dramatically increased by the popularity of “trophy hunting”, it has emerged.

James Hore

COSTS of a programme to release white rhinos into a South African nature reserve have been dramatically increased by the popularity of “trophy hunting”, it has emerged.

Four years of hard work for the staff at Colchester Zoo will come to fruition this week when they release two of the endangered animals back into the wild.

The zoo and its charity arm, Action for the Wild, have created the UmPhafaprivate nature reserve in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, from three former cattle farms covering 20,000 acres.


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The aim is to recreate the collection of animals which once roamed the land before human intervention led to many of them becoming extinct in the area.

UmPhafa was previously managed as farmland and many of the creatures were sold or killed if they posed a threat to livestock.

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Zoo director Anthony Tropeanohopes once the female pair has settled and matured they will then be able to introduce a male to improve breeding success.

Mr Tropeano is flying out tomorrow to oversee the capture and release of the rhinos, aged between five and seven.

The pair was purchased from other reserves and the move will cost more than £40,000 - a figure greatly increased because of the willingness of people to pay big money to “trophy hunt” - shooting the animals in the wild.

Tourists to South Africa pay thousands of pounds for the chance to kill the animals, including the so-called “big five” - buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino.

Since 2006, the reserve has already seen the introduction of giraffe, zebra, blesbok, red hartebeest, common reedbuck, serval cats and waterbuck along with the African rock python.

Rebecca Parry, the zoo's conservation officer, who is also flying out, said: “We are all incredibly excited about the prospect of releasing white rhinos onto UmPhafa.

“It is the culmination of years of effort and hard work and we are delighted that such a charismatic species will be released, as it will change the feel of the whole reserve.”

It is estimated that the reserve - which lies in a malaria free zone two hours from Durban and three hours from Johannesburg in an area rich in Zulu history - will be able to support up to 12 white rhinos.

The land covers a 1,200 foot gradient from the banks of the Tugela River to the top of the hills creating a diverse range of ecosystems including open grassland and bushveldt.

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