Rhinos

Footage of baby rhino birth in Cotswolds
White rhino Stella is the newest addition to the family at Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire.

WWF 'denies responsibility' for 11 Kenyan rhino deaths

A rhino being transported to Tsavo National Park
EPA
The rhinos were moved from Nairobi National Park and Nakuru National Park

The conservation group WWF has rejected the results of an inquiry that partly blames the organisation for a botched transfer that led to the deaths of 11 rhinos last year, the Reuters news agency has reported.

The endangered black rhinos were moved from to Tsavo National Park to protect them from poaching.

But they were not able to digest high levels of salt in their drinking water in the park, which led to their deaths.

Before the government moved the rhinos, samples of the water had been taken but the results were not considered, the tourism minister said at the time.

According to the inquiry, WWF applied pressure on Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to speed up the move.

WWF has denied the accusations, saying concerns about water quality were never raised.

"We would never push for a translocation to go ahead against the recommendations of the relevant experts," the organisation said in a statement. "This was a tragedy we hope will never be repeated."

Estimates suggest there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa and some 750 in Kenya.

Poaching poses a significant threat to the population.

Northern white rhino embryos created in lab

Scientists looking at his research
Ami Vitale

Scientists have achieved another milestone in the creation of the next generation of northern white rhinos, aimed at bringing back the rare animal from the brink of extinction.

Using eggs from the only two surviving northern white rhinos, both in Kenya, and frozen sperm from two males, who are both dead, researchers in Italy have created embryos.

The embryos are currently being stored in liquid nitrogen and will be transferred into a surrogate mother soon, the Kenya Wildlife Service says.

But there is still a "very long way to go", according to the head of Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy Richard Vigne, where the two remaining northern white rhinos live under armed guard.

The gestation period for the rhino is between 15 and 16 months.

Rhinoceros
Ami Vitale
There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world - both of them female and infertile

The embryos were created at the Aventea Laboratories in Italy and the whole process has been an international effort, including organisations from Germany and the Czech Republic.

Rhinos are the second-largest land mammal after elephants. The white rhinoceros consists of two sub-species - the southern white rhino and the much rarer and critically endangered northern white rhino.

Poaching is the primary threat facing all rhino species.

Northern white rhino hope after artificial insemination birth
A southern white rhino has given birth after artificial insemination, raising hopes for the northern white rhino population.

'Drone herding' can curb rhino poaching

Rhinos grazing in fields in Kenya
Getty Images

Drones and sirens could be used to crack down on rhino poaching, The New Scientist has reported.

The University of Brighton found that drones and sharp siren sounds had a dramatic impact on encouraging rhino to leave poaching hotspots such as water holes, buildings and roads.

“We found the drones to be a much more effective tool at manipulating rhino movement than the sirens, mainly due to their long transmission range and capability of pursuing rhinos over long distances,” said Samuel Penny, who was leading the investigation.

“The drone’s manoeuvrability also allows for more precise control of rhino movement as it can be flown into positions in response to changes in rhino direction. In essence it can be used to herd them,” he added.

He said the smell of chilli was ineffective, despite being used to deter elephants, monkeys and bears.

“We actually recorded rhinos chewing on the chili-oil infused ropes on several occasions... so in this case, chili acted more as an attractant than a deterrent," said Mr Penny.