About Us

The Australian Rhino Project is a conservation organisation which is committed to working as part of the collective international fight to protect African rhinoceros from extinction.

The Australian Rhino Project, together with Zoos South Australia, Orana Wildlife Park and Taronga Conservation Society, are currently working to expand the population of white rhinos in Australia and New Zealand to maintain a genetically diverse breeding crash that can act as an insurance population should the rhino become extinct in its African homeland.

Insurance populations have been utilised as a conservation strategy when species are under threat of extinction from human activity, habitat loss, disease or other causes. Well known conservationist Ian Player established breeding colonies of White Rhinoceros in various locations in Africa and beyond to assure the survival of the species. Likewise, populations of Tasmanian Devils, Przewalski’s Horses, wild cats and many other species have been successfully protected from potential extinction when species have been under threat of extinction.

 


 

Since 2010, official figures suggest that 6,925 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2010. With an estimated remaining population of less than 20,000 white rhinos, the species is becoming increasingly threatened due to poaching. Rhino populations in Asia and Africa have also been heavily impacted by poaching. Poaching has been driven by an illicit demand for rhino horn in Asian countries such as Vietnam and China.

The Australian Rhino Project consists of a team of individuals, supporters and partner organisations who are passionate about ensuring the survival of the rhinoceros. Since the start of the project, the poaching epidemic has only increased in South Africa and the future of the rhino species continues to become more precarious.

We believe that we need to act now, as rhinos may be extinct in the wild in less than 10 years.

 

What we do

Since formation, the Australian Rhino Project has been working with experts in rhino conservation to understand the critical steps involved in building a genetically diverse population of rhinos in Australia and New Zealand. A population of rhinos currently exist in Australia and New Zealand under the management of the Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Australasian Species Management Plan and it is critical to maintain genetic diversity of this population.

In 2012, a feasibility study was commissioned in conjunction with the University of Sydney Veterinary School and Taronga Conservation Society to understand key factors and considerations associated with all aspects of the project. This study addressed breeding, vegetation, costs, transportation considerations, sourcing and management.

The process of relocating a 2 tonne rhino to Australia is not a simple one. There are many steps involved that require approvals, specific expertise and skill. The Australian Rhino Project is committed to ensuring that all key steps in the relocation project are managed within the regulations and guidelines of requirements of all authorities involved:

  1. Rhino Selection – selection of rhinos is a critical step in the process. For Australian permitting requirements, a 5 year history of the rhino must be known and the rhino must be free of all disease. Likewise, there needs to be an assurance that imported rhinos will be most-likely to breed in terms of age and health.
  2. Permitting – permits are required for both export and import of rhinos. Also given that rhinos are listed under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II, a permit is required for relocation of the species.
  3. Quarantining – due to strict biosecurity laws in Australia and New Zealand and the need to reduce the risk associated with the spread of disease, a quarantine period is required both pre-export and on arrival into the importing country. Where certified quarantine facilities do not exist, facilities must be constructed under strict guidelines and then certified by the relevant authorities. Quarantine periods are generally set by the authorities of the country importing the rhinos.
  4. Transport – during the initial quarantine period in South Africa, crates will be constructed for each rhino. Rhinos will then be habituated into the crates and learn to feel comfortable with their crates. Testing of rhinos will be completed throughout the quarantine period, however the tests prior to transport will determine whether the rhinos are healthy enough to be accepted by the importing country and suitable for transport. Rhinos will be then moved into the crates, the crates will be lifted onto trucks and then transported to large cargo aircraft for transport. Due to the fact that the crates are large in size, rhinos cannot travel on standard planes. Skilled vets will travel with the rhinos throughout the journey.
  5. Arrival – on arrival into the importing country, rhinos will once again need to undergo a period of quarantine. For The Australian Rhino Project, the rhinos will be quarantined in New Zealand and then transported to Australia after serving their quarantine period. A few rhinos will remain in New Zealand as part of our initiative to ensure genetic diversity throughout the Australasian region.

The Australian Rhino Project is currently working with three open plain zoological associations to house rhinos associated with the project; South Australia Zoological Association, Taronga Conservation Society and Orana Wildlife Trust. Under CITES and South African Government requirements, all facilities housing rhinos outside of South Africa must be either a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), an affiliated member of WAZA or an accredited member of a regional zoo associated recognised by the CITES Management Authority of the State of import.

 

Why Rhinos?

 

The facts
  • A rhino is killed on average every 8 hours for its horn
  • In the past 10 years, over 6,000 rhinos have been poached for their horns
  • There is now estimated to be less than 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos remaining in Africa
  • There are now more rhinos killed than there are born
  • If we do not act now, rhinos may be extinct in the wild within 10 years

 

Why are rhinos being poached?

  • Poaching is driven by an illegal demand for rhino horn in countries such as Vietnam and China
  • Rhinos are killed in South Africa and then the horns are illegally shipped via the black market to Asia
  • Rhino horn is one of the most trafficked wildlife parts in the world
  • Trade in rhino horn is illegal in most countries throughout the world
  • Rhino horn is used in traditional medicine, however now the more common use is as a status symbol to display someone's success and wealth
  • Black market value is estimated at up to $100,000 per kg
  • BUT, rhino horns are simply made of keratin - the same substance as human fingernails

 

Why move rhinos to Australia?

  • A rhino population already exists in Australia and we need to maintain the genetic biodiversity of the existing population
  • Australia has the landscape, climate and proven expertise to manage these species effectively and successfully
  • The rhinos that are brought to Australia will be cared for under guardianship with a conservation focus
  • The ultimate goal is the repatriation of rhinoceros back into Africa when it is safe to do so in the future

 

White Rhino Trio I

 

The Australian Rhino Project highly respects the work of in-situ conservation groups and anti-poaching units, as well as those that are working to curb the demand for horn through behaviour change campaigns in Asia.

The Australian Rhino Project members and collaborators have a long history of supporting rhinoceros conservation within range states, and The Australian Rhino Project continues to explore opportunities to promote and sustain rhinoceros conservation broadly.

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