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Yes, black rhino numbers across Africa more than doubled in 25 years

“There are about 5,500 black rhino in the wild, an increase from less than 2,500 around 25 years ago and this year,” reads blurb of an article shared on Facebook in South Africa. “We can celebrate 13 more little ones!”

The article was published on the popular South African “good news” blog, Good Things Guy, on 22 September 2020 – World Rhino Day. It says the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project celebrated the birth of at least 13 rhino calves in South Africa and neighbouring Malawi over the past year.

But Facebook’s fact-checking system flagged the article as possibly false. We investigated.



What is the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project?


The World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, is an independent international conservation organisation. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is a partnership between WWF and Ezemvelo, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government’s conservation agency.

The project makes more land available for black rhinos to breed, so increasing their numbers. The WWF says that “since 2003 the project has successfully created 13 new black rhino populations in South Africa”.

There are two species of African rhino: black and white. Both species are under threat, but the black rhino is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN.

Around 5,500 black rhinos in the wild


The Good Things Guy article credits the WWF as its source. On 22 September the organisation reported the same news, saying there were around 270 black rhinos in the project’s 13 partner sites.

The WWF says there are now some 5,500 black rhinos in the wild across Africa, an increase from 25 years ago when there were fewer than 2,500. An estimated 2,000 of today’s population are in South Africa.

“Translocation projects that create new populations in well-protected areas are essential in giving populations a chance for recovery,” the organisation says. 

Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, estimates there are a total of 5,366 to 5,627 black rhinos in the wild.

Dr Jo Shaw, senior manager at WWF South Africa, told Africa Check: “Black rhino are recognised to represent a conservation success story, thanks to the great efforts in population management to maximise growth rates which have resulted in the trend described.”

In March the IUCN reported that from 2012 to 2018, Africa’s total black rhino population had grown “at a modest annual rate of 2.5% from an estimated 4,845 to 5,630 animals in the wild, respectively”.

‘More than a dozen calves this year’


In its September article, the WWF says the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has celebrated the birth of at least 13 calves in 2020, born on project sites across South Africa and in Malawi. 

“Two of the calves are second generation, meaning that their grandmothers were among those moved to create new populations.” 

The news was reported by other South African media outlets. News24 published a video of one of the calves walking with its mother. 

The good news is true: black rhino numbers are on the up. – Taryn Willows

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

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Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

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