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Versteege, L., 2010. Import (The White rhinoceros EEP – where does it go from here?). Harpij 29 (1): 22-25, figs. 1-2

Location: Captive - Europe
Subject: Captivity
Species: White Rhino

Original text on this topic:
White rhinos in the wild suffered a great decline, and at the beginning of the 20th century numbered only 30 to 100 animals. Intensive management has resulted in a huge increase, with more than 18,000 now found in South Africa alone. Translocation of southern white rhinos from South Africa to countries such as Kenya, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe has created substantial populations in other countries as well. Despite an increase in poaching of white rhinos, the population in South Africa is still growing, and 50 to 100 white rhinos are auctioned each year for money that is primarily used to support wildlife management and conservation. Most of the white rhinos sold go to game ranches where they are killed by rich trophy hunters. There are many wildlife traders available that can arrange export of these animals to other countries. Because white rhinos are odd-toed ungulates they do not face the same restrictions in importation to Europe that even-toed ungulates do. White rhinos in European zoos Poor record keeping historically has made it difficult to gain much understanding of the white rhino population in European zoos prior to the 1970s, when many white rhinos were imported; mostly from Hluhluwe National Park in South Africa. Initially not much was known regarding social needs and reproductive strategies of white rhinos, and while some of the animals from the transports undertaken in the 1970’s are still alive, not many reproduced. Analyses of the 2006/2007 EEP population indicated that more than 30% of the population is more than 35 years old, but that only 26% of the white rhinos imported since the 1950s ever bred, and only 13% of the F1 generation has bred to date. More recently, a much better understanding of the natural history of these animals has resulted in improved management. Zoos holding white rhinos within the EEP are now strongly encouraged to hold larger groups, and zoos that do not have the room to hold larger groups are advised to switch to solitary species. The realization that reproduction of daughters is hormonally suppressed in the presence of their mothers has led to transfer of female offspring to other zoos, increasing their chance of breeding. There are a number of European zoos that are willing to invest in constructing enclosures suitable for holding and managing these rhinos properly if they know that they will receive the animals to fill the enclosures. However it is currently impossible to assure them of this, given that much of the population is aging, and not much breeding is occurring. For this reason, a proposal for some zoos to import animals from South Africa is under discussion. While there are many opponents to importation of wild animals, the white rhino EEP coordinator and species committee feels that importation is justified in this case, because it is confident that with the improved understanding of the management needs of these animals now available it would be possible to develop a more viable population of white rhinos with additional founders. Furthermore these surplus animals would only be given to game ranches otherwise, and it is clear that their export can be professionally undertaken .

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