About Us

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

The Australian Rhino Project, together with Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Orana Wildlife Park and Taronga Conservation Society Australia, is currently working to expand the population of white rhinos in Australia and New Zealand to maintain a genetically diverse breeding crash.

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Since 2010, official figures suggest that close to 10,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa. 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.

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 its 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 exists 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 the 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 the 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 before 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. Because 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; Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, 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 and New Zealand?

  • A rhino population already exists in Australia and New Zealand 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


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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