Written by EWA, Photo by Lone Star Outdoor News
Rhinoceroses may soon inhabit ranches in southern Texas, under a proposal discussed at the recent annual membership conference of the Exotic Wildlife Association in San Marcos.
The EWA heard a proposal from Quintin Smith, a senior representative of groupelephant.com, to relocate breeding groups of rhinos from South Africa to Texas as part of an ambitious and unprecedented conservation program that could result in us seeing up to 1,000 rhinos in Texas over the next decade.
The rhino population has declined 95 percent since the beginning of the 20th Century, with South Africa holding more than 90 percent of the world’s current rhino population, estimated at just 25,000 animals. Despite the work of 150-plus non-profit organizations in South Africa targeting their efforts to conserve rhinos, rhino poaching has grown exponentially, exceeding 1,200 animals in 2014. Year-on-year there is a 20 percent increase in poaching.
“We came to the conclusion that if we can’t take the danger away from the rhinos, then we need to take the rhinos away from the danger,” said Smith. “We view Texas as a potential safe haven for rhinos.”
To make a substantial impact on the conservation of rhinos, the plan calls for relocating large numbers of rhinos from South Africa to Texas. Groupelephant.com brought the idea to EWA-notwithstanding that the two organizations have different positions on hunting in general-because exotic wildlife ranchers potentially have the space on their ranches for herds of rhino. The EWA and groupelephant.com‘s overlapping objective in protecting rhinos was the basis of the potential partnership.
“This would be a very major undertaking,” said EWA Executive Director Charly Seale. “We are very interested in this idea, would very much like to help the dire situation with rhino in South Africa, but recognize that there is an enormous amount of detail and significant cost implications to first be considered and worked out before we know whether this is, indeed, a realistic and implementable concept that would attract the participation of a good many of our members”.
Texas ranchers have a track record of bolstering populations of threatened African species. In 2012, CBS’s “60 Minutes” explored how private ranches had helped grow populations of three African gazelle.
“Bringing 1,000 rhinos to Texas is ambitious,” said Seale. “However, any number is better than none being moved out of danger. How many we can realistically bring to Texas and other parts of the country over time is part of what we still have to determine.”
If approved, currently orphaned rhinos would be kept in facilities that comply with USDA regulations, and others that are currently in the wild in South Africa, would roam free on US ranches. The orphaned rhinos would be reintroduced into the wild at the earliest feasible stage. The intention is not that these animals would be kept in cages.
“The rhino that come to EWA member ranches in Texas and elsewhere under this program will be safeguarded, and if they breed successfully as we hope, eventually for return to South Africa sometime in the future when conditions over there become more safe for rhino,” said Seale. “These animals will not be for commerce, they will not be sold or hunted, it will be all about the EWA helping to conserve this iconic species.”
EWA and groupelephant.com hope to work out the details in the next 6-12 months.