Rhino being led to transport crate © Wiki West from WeWild

Munywana Conservancy in South Africa Receives Donation of 40 Southern White Rhino in First Step of Continent-wide Initiative to Rewild 2,000 Rhino

The Munywana Conservancy received 40 southern white rhino to bolster its current rhino population. This marks the first translocation under ‘Rhino Rewild’, an African Parks initiative to rewild 2,000 southern white rhino into secure protected areas in Africa.

Johannesburg, South Africa, 16th of May 2024. African Parks, a conservation organisation, has officially launched the rewilding phase of ‘Rhino Rewild’, an ambitious plan to rewild 2,000 southern white rhino into secure protected areas in Africa over the next 10 years. In the first move of this continent-wide effort, 40 southern white rhino were donated to the Munywana Conservancy in Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in support of the conservancy’s successful conservation and community efforts. 

The Munywana Conservancy has a historic foundation: in 2007, 9,085 hectares of land were returned to its ancestral owners, the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities as part of South Africa’s land restitution process. Both communities requested that the land continue to be kept under conservation. Through this legacy, the Munywana Conservancy, now a 29,866-hectare reserve, is upheld through a collaboration of community and private landowners that include the Makhasa Community Trust, the Mnqobokazi Community Trust, &Beyond Phinda and ZUKA Private Game Reserves.

“We are extremely pleased to receive these 40 rhino from African Parks, to supplement the current population of white rhino at our community conservancy,” said Thokozani Mlambo, Chairperson of the Makhasa Trust, one of the three primary shareholders of the Munywana Conservancy. “We see this as recognition of the important role that community-owned land plays in conservation, and we are proud to be collaborating in such a significant partnership to rewild rhino across our continent.”

The Munywana Conservancy offers a secure environment to support the rewilding of southern white rhino. With this move, Munywana’s current rhino population will be bolstered, enhancing genetic diversity, aiding future rhino translocations to other locations, and supporting tourism – a key driver of the local economy. 

In September 2023, African Parks purchased the world’s largest captive rhino breeding operation which was facing financial collapse. The main objective of the initiative is to rewild all the rhino to well-managed and secure protected areas, thereby establishing or supplementing strategic populations, ultimately helping to de-risk the future of the species. 

“I am especially pleased to see that the very first translocation of some of the 2,000 white rhinos, are going to this important landscape within South Africa, which is a flagship partnership, in which communities are making a significant contribution to the conservation of our natural heritage,” said Ms. Barbara Creecy, the South African Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment. “On behalf of the Government of South Africa, we were very supportive of African Parks’ plan to purchase and rewild these rhino and remain a key partner in providing technical and scientific advice and the support needed to carry out this conservation solution in South Africa and on the African continent.”

To achieve a successful outcome of this translocation, the animals’ body condition and parasite adaptation will be closely monitored as they adjust to their new environment. In addition, the conservancy will implement its intensive security measures to ensure the safety of the 40 dehorned rhino.

“We believe that both African Parks and the Munywana have the same ethos and guiding principles when it comes to conservation, and in that spirit the Munywana has gladly accepted this donation, enabling these rhino to commence the process of becoming fully wild and free roaming,” said Dale Wepener, Munywana Warden & Conservation Manager. 

This first translocation was carried out by African Parks, &Beyond Phinda, Conservation Solutions and WeWild Africa with the financial support for the move provided by The Aspinall Foundation and The Wildlife Emergency Fund. “We recognise the magnitude and logistical feat of moving 2,000 rhino. This is just the beginning of a long-term partnership with African Parks where we can play our part in making a tangible contribution to the future of the southern white rhino in Africa,” said Damian Aspinall, chairman of WeWild Africa. 

The white rhino as a species is under extreme pressure due to poaching and habitat loss, and hence the need for well protected areas for them to thrive. While southern white rhino reached an all-time low of 30 to 40 animals in the 1930s, effective conservation measures increased the population to approximately 20,000 individuals by 2012. However, the dramatic rise in poaching has decreased their numbers to approximately 16,000 today. White rhino are mega-herbivores that are important in shaping savannahs which store approximately 30% of the world’s terrestrial carbon. Where rhino are present, there is an increase in both flora and fauna; and thriving wild rhino populations are indicators of ecosystem renewal. 

“The crux of the solution, and the ultimate success for rewilding these 2,000 rhino, lies in the existence of safe, well-protected and effectively managed areas across Africa, of which the Munywana Conservancy is an excellent example,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, an organisation that manages 22 protected areas in partnership with governments and communities in 12 countries. “Rhino Rewild is one of our most ambitious undertakings to date, where together with a multitude of governmental, conservation and community organisations, and key funders, we have the rare opportunity to help de-risk a species, and in the process to help secure some of the most critical conservation areas not just in Africa, but in the world.”

Initial funders of Rhino Rewild include the Rob Walton Foundation, the Pershing Square Foundation, WeWild Africa, The Aspinall Foundation and The Wildlife Emergency Fund.

To access media assets, including images and video, please click here.

About African Parks 

African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of protected areas, in partnership with governments and local communities. African Parks manages 22 protected areas in 12 countries covering over 20 million hectares in Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For more information visit www.africanparks.org, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

About Rhino Rewild

Rhino Rewild, an African Parks initiative, is a 10-year plan to rescue and rewild 2,000 southern white rhino and renew the habitats they require. In September 2023, African Parks purchased the world’s largest rhino captive breeding operation in South Africa, in a bid to rescue the rhino, which amount to approximately 13% of the world’s population, and to rewild them to safe and well-managed protected areas across Africa as part of a strategic, continent-wide conservation strategy. For more information visit www.rhinorewild.org 

About The Munywana Conservancy 

The Munywana Conservancy, a collaboration of private and community landowners, is a protected wildlife conservation area spanning 29,866 hectares (73,800 acres). The conservancy has a proud history of successful conservation endeavours and groundbreaking research which have been instrumental to the protection of threatened species including rhino, cheetah, pangolin, lion and elephant. Wildlife translocations of rhino and cheetah from the Munywana Conservancy continue to support new source populations of rhino and cheetah. For more information visit: https://www.andbeyond.com/impact/history/our-phinda-story/

About WeWild Africa

WeWild Africa was founded in 2019 by veteran conservation experts with 100+ years collective experience in wildlife conservation in Africa. We have worked in some of the most challenging places and situations in the world, with a never-give-up mindset. Through partnerships with key stakeholders and committed organisations and reserves, WeWild Africa is able to make decisions quickly and provide seemingly impossible solutions. Since 2019, the organisation has directly impacted over 900 animals through rescue or rewilding. For more information visit: www.wewildafrica.com

Media Contacts:

African Parks

Helen Hancock: +27 71 149 8830  

[email protected] 

WE Communications

Carly Simon: +27 82 508 2209

[email protected]