Twenty-nine-year-old Kifaru – an Eastern black rhino – is settling in to his new home after travelling from Hannover Zoo.
We’re hoping our new arrival will sire a number of new calves and bring vital new blood to the European population of Eastern black rhinos – a species classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.
He will soon be introduced to the zoo’s current females, starting with Ema Elsa.
Our curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said:
With a species that’s as highly threatened with extinction as the Eastern black rhino, all individuals in the European breeding programme are important.
As so few individuals exist, it is essential that we achieve successful breeding from as many of the rhinos in zoos as possible. Kifaru has only sired three calves previously; this means he has a great opportunity to add to the dwindling numbers of black rhino which makes him one of the most important rhinos around. Any offspring he may go on to produce here would bring vital genetics to the European population.
This population is vital as an insurance policy against further declines in the wild and the more successful the population is, the better that insurance policy can be.
We have one of the best records in the world when it comes to breeding rhinos, so fingers crossed we can encourage Kifaru to work his magic with our females.
There are now thought to be less than 650 Eastern black rhinos remaining in the wild, placing the species perilously close to extinction.
Numbers in Africa have plummeted as a result of a dramatic surge in illegal poaching. A global increase in demand for rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, where it is wrongly believed to be a cure for everything from nightmares to dysentery, has intensified the situation in recent times.
Emerging markets in Vietnam and an upsurge in the supply of arms used to hunt rhino, have further added to the problem. This attrition is being driven by the astonishing street value for rhino horn, which fetches £40,000 a kilo – more than gold.
Chester Zoo has long supported conservation efforts in the wild to try and protect black rhinos and continues to pump money, and provide expertise, to numerous projects in Africa.