In a bid to protect rhinos from extinction, wildlife groups have come up with plans to relocate around 80 of the animals to Australia and establish an “insurance population.”
The move is in reaction to a court ruling to lift the South African government’s ban on domestic trading of rhino horns, which is home to 80% of the world’s rhino population. Australian Rhino Project and South Africa’s Elephants, Rhinos and People (ERP), two conservationist groups leading the project, say the animals will be brought back to Africa once their population grows and the demand for rhino horn falls.
The problem of rhino and elephant poaching in Africa, driven largely by demand for ivory in Asia, has risen to record levels in South Africa. Since 2013, at least 1,000 rhinos have been illegally killed every year in the country. While Kenya has resorted to using snipers to protect its rhino population, conservationists say South Africa’s ruling will make things worse and result in a rise in rhino poaching there.
Should the Australian relocation prove a success, similar insurance populations may be established in the US, where there are strict laws against poaching. ”Poachers will go where it is easy to poach. It is easier to poach rhinos in Africa than in Australia or America,” ERP Director Wouter van Hoven has said.