Black rhino conservation - Chester Zoo

Black Rhinoceros Programme

The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world, severely threatened with extinction by poaching for the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn.

Our Black Rhino Conservation Programme focuses on the eastern black rhinoceros, (D.b. michaeli) the rarest and most severely threatened of the surviving black rhino subspecies. 

Numbering less than 1000 individuals this subspecies has undergone a devastating decline of over 90% during the past few decades. Since 2010 rhino poaching has intensified across Africa to its highest ever levels placing more pressure on the remaining populations. 

Chester Zoo is dedicated to conserving this incredible and iconic species, taking an active role in field conservation by providing support to two principal projects.  

Chyulu Hills National Park

In the Chyulu Hills National Park, Kenya (part of the Tsavo ecosystem) which supports the only truly free ranging population of eastern black rhino in Kenya, we provide major financial support to our partner the Big Life Foundation to monitor and protect the park’s rhinos.

The Big Life project at Chyulu also works closely with local Maasai communities who are active participants in many conservation projects in the region. Since 2012 Chester Zoo has also provided major funding and educational support towards the highly innovative and hugely successful Maasai Olympics, a conservation themed athletics event based on traditional warrior skills.

Mkomazi National Park

Further to the south, just over the Kenyan border in Tanzania is Mkomazi National Park also part of the Tsavo ecosystem. The Mkomazi rhino population was devastated in the 1980s by poachers and much of the park was overrun with illegal cattle grazers. 

However through the efforts of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust and the Tanzanian National Parks Authority, Mkomazi has undergone an incredible transformation and resurgence. Since 1989 the GAWPT has established fenced sanctuaries for the successful reintroduction of eastern black rhino and African wild dog into the Mkomazi ecosystem.  

Our support for Mkomazi includes funds for essential infrastructure improvements and repairs, including the construction of rhino wallows, electric fences and an observation hide to increase the effectiveness of rhino monitoring and protection activities. We also helped fund the translocation of three rhinos from the European Breeding Programme to Mkomazi.

Additional Chester Zoo support has included the purchase of an education bus and the development of a highly successful community education programme “Rafiki wa Faru" (Friends of the Rhinos) to improve conservation awareness in the surrounding communities.

In the future Chester Zoo will continue to play a key role in the conservation of black rhino, linking our ex-situ and in-situ activities to enhance conservation impact. Technical support staff will continue to be a major part of this programme, assisting with local capacity building for the sustainable conservation of black rhino.

Project partners

Big Life Foundation GAWPT Kenya Wildlife Service SRI

Project team

Key Facts

90%
of the eastern black rhino population has been lost over the past few decades
1000
There are less than 1000 individuals of this sub-species remaining
2
Chester Zoo provides support to two principal projects

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