Conservationists at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Meru are celebrating a record number of rhino births this year.
The sanctuary, that hosts the endangered black rhino, has recorded 25 births this year, with rhino health experts projecting the number to rise to 30 by the end of the year.
Lewa rhino monitoring officer Kenneth Onzere said the sanctuary now has 239 rhinos, 126 of them are black and 113 white. This is about 15 per cent of the total rhino population in the country.
Speaking on World Rhino Day, which was observed on Wednesday, Mr Onzere hailed the increased numbers as a steady recovery following a spate of poaching that reduced the number of black rhinos from an all-time high of 20,000 in the 1960’s to less than 300 in the 1980’s.
“We are predicting this to be a peak year since we already have 25 calves and they have all survived. We are expecting 30 calves and above,” said Mr Onzere.
Lewa conservancy senior communication officer Rachel Wambui said rhino conservationists countrywide were ecstatic since there was no single incident of poaching reported in 2020, the first time in 20 years.
Conservationists were apprehensive that the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic would elevate poaching threats.
The Kenya Wildlife Service attributes the achievement to enhanced security operations, rhino monitoring, and collaboration with communities and with law enforcement agencies.
“The best conservation news of 2020 was that the year ended with no rhino poaching incidents in the whole country; the first zero-poaching record in 20 years. At 853 individuals, this was also the first year that Kenya managed to hit its annual targeted number of black rhino population,” she said.
Lewa Conservancy has also started a supplementary feeding programme targeting lactating mothers and the old rhinos to ensure they are not affected by the prevailing dry spell which has reduced pasture.
Mr Onzere said they were feeding the special group of rhinos with lusan grass.
“Each year during the dry season they do assessment on all and identify the ones that could struggle during that time in terms of getting food. If the animals do not get supplementary feeding, lactating rhinos could lose their calves. Black rhinos are critically endangered and everyone counts, and thus would want to ensure they all survive,” he explained.