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IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group


CITES Rhino Report for Bangkok COP16
The IUCN African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups, along with TRAFFIC, have just completed a joint Rhino Report for the Sixteenth Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna Conference of the Parties (CITES COP16) in Bangkok in March 2013. Click here to read the report.
IUCN World Conservation Congress Rhino Resolution
At its World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea in September 2012, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature adopted a formal resolution on the Conservation of rhinoceros species in Africa and Asia.  Click here to read the IUCN Recommendation 138. 


A Statement from the African Rhino Specialist Group Secretariat Concerning the Avaaz Petition


As many may be aware there is a petition doing the international circuit organized by the Avaaz group. It has the laudable goal of calling for an end to rhino poaching but at the same time advocating simple solutions for what is a very complex issue. The attached letter from the Chairs of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) and the Sustainable Use & Livelihoods (SULi)  has been sent to the Avaaz team to alert them of our major concerns reference this petition.  To read the letter concerning the Avaaz petition from the AfRSG Secretariat, click here.


African and Asian rhinoceroses: status, conservation and trade
A recent report by the IUCN Species Survival Commission, African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC warns that since 2006 there has been alarming increase in poaching and the illegal trade of rhino horn. Black, white and greater one-horned rhinos have shown population increases since 2006 but in Africa alone a minimum of 470 rhinos have been poached since January 2006. To read the full report click here.
For a summary of rhino related discussions and outcomes at CITES CoP15 please read the AfRSG Chair report from Pachyderm 47.

The African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), like its counterpart in the Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) is among the 100+ Specialist Groups in the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN - The World Conservation Union. Its mission is to promote the development and long term maintenance of viable populations of the various sub-species of African rhinos in the wild. Its membership consists of official country representatives from the main range states and a number of specialist members covering a wide range of skills. The AfRSG routinely develops and promotes recommended best practices for a range of rhino conservation activities and has produced an Action Plan for the conservation of rhino species. The Group has also developed a system for priority rating both populations and potential projects for their continental importance to assist donors spend their money effectively. AfRSG members have for many years been actively involved in a number of regional rhino conservation bodies such as the SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation, the SADC Rhino Management Group and the SADC Rhino and Elephant Security Group, and the AfRSG has been promoting the formation of an East African Rhino Management Group. AfRSG members have to date assisted conservation agencies in Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe develop national or organizational rhino conservation plans, strategies and policies. 

Every two years (funding permitting), the AfRSG meets to share knowledge and information, collate and update rhino numbers at a continental level and workshop specific issues. These meetings build capacity through sharing  information and lessons learned, as well as developing  guidelines and strategies. The meetings (and AfRSG members participation in regional and national rhino conservation bodies/agencies) also contributes to fostering and building an effective network of rhino conservationists throughout the continent.

Key AfRSG services cover a wide range of subjects including

  • CITES issues
  • Conservation of the few remaining northern white rhino (from provision of technical advice on monitoring to assisting stakeholders by evaluating alternative conservation strategies)
  • Providing specialist advice and contributing to a number or regional forums/committees/meetings that enhance cooperation, security and metapopulation management
  • Compiling the official continental rhino statistics every two years
  • Acting as the IUCN Red List Authority for African rhinos;
  • On request assisting range states and management agencies develop rhino conservation plans and strategies
  • Providing guidance, advice, training and tools to help field conservationists monitor their rhino and enable them to use the data collected to make more informed biological management decisions
  • To review lessons learned and promote strategies for the successful biological management of rhinos to achieve demographic and genetic goals
  • To develop rhino translocation guidelines
  • Holding biennial AfRSG meetings
  • Assisting range states and agencies with capacity building in the form of provision of materials and soft ware and holding of training courses
  • Enhancing rhino protection through facilitation and promotion of effective investigation and prosecution of rhino crimes
  • Liaising with the AsRSG to share lessons learned
  • The development of specific management tools/software (e.g. for population estimation, managing intelligence information)
  • Assisting donors with project proposal rating and review
  • Seeking to foster increased liaison with intensive rhino management institutions
  • To foster where possible the economic and social sustainability of rhino conservation efforts
  • Raising awareness of rhino conservation issues through dissemination of reliable information and unbiased professional opinion on rhino conservation programmes and issues (with a view to promoting the adoption of balanced viewpoints and enhanced decision-making for the benefit of rhinos).

The AfRSG is based in the Pietermaritzburg/Hilton area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa where Chair, Dr. Michael Knight and Scientific Officer Dr. Richard Emslie are located.

Drs. Knight and Emslie's contact information is:

Dr Michael H Knight
Chairman, IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group
c/o Conservation Services South African National Parks 
PO Box 76693 NMMU 6031 
Port Elizabeth South Africa
Tel: +27-41-508 5411
Fax: +27-41-508 5415
Dr. Richard Emslie
Scientific Officer
Box1212 Hilton,
South Africa 3245


Translocation Guidelines
"Translocation has become routine in a number of African range states and has played a key role in increasing both white and black rhino numbers. Although less frequent in Asia, expertise and input was sought from many Asian rhino range states and has been incorporated into these guidelines. This authoritative set of guidelines seeks to share and synthesize the knowledge and experience of rhino translocations in Africa and Asia, and to provide decision makers and senior wildlife managers with guidelines on “best practice” for the translocation of African and Asian rhinos.

The guidelines are structured chronologically. Section 1 deals with various aspects of the pre-translocation phase. Section 2 discusses the implementation of the translocation and Section 3 the post-release period. Section 4 contains a useful bullet-point list of lessons learned from past translocation exercises".  

These guidelines can be downloaded from the Rhino Resource Center.

Pachyderm, the journal of the African Elephant, African Rhino and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, provides the most current information available regarding in situ conservation and management of African elephants and African and Asian rhinos. Pachyderm is produced by the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group in Nairobi, Kenya.  Pachyderm includes peer-reviewed articles on elephant and rhino research, activity reports from the three Specialist Groups, regular field notes from the African Rhino Specialist Group, as well as numerous other short articles, book reviews and opinion papers on rhino and elephant conservation and management. For the latest update article on African rhino numbers and trends see Edition 41.

For more information, please click here.

The Action Plan plan provides

  • An overview of numbers and trends of African rhino up to 1997
  • Discusses alternative management models,
  • Reviews the conservation status of rhinos in the wild and captivity
  • Discusses the threats to rhinos,
  • Discusses the international and regional framework for conservation of African Rhino
  • Reviews rhino distribution status and conservation action by country
  • Outlines strategies for the successful conservation of African rhino as well as
  • Discussing systems for priority rating projects and populations.

The AfRSG Action Plan was compiled by Richard Emslie and Martin Brooks and is available in hard copy from IUCN Publications Services Unit. Download or email for more information.

The AfRSG was one of five consortium partners which helped set up and manage the Southern African Development Community’s Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation (SADC RPRC). In 2006, the SADC RPRC published a manual “Guidelines for Implementing SADC Rhino Conservation Strategies” which was compiled and edited by Raoul du Toit* with contributions from Richard Emslie*, Martin Brooks*, Guiseppe Daconto and Lovemore Mungwashu* (*AfRSG members). This document provides an insight into some of the issues and challenges facing rhino conservation in southern Africa as well as outlining recommended strategies and actions needed to run a successful rhino conservation programme. 

The manual includes sections on strategic planning, maximising the incentives for rhino population management, ensuring optimal biological management  (see also, reintroducing rhinos – biological and management consideration; ensuring security of rhino populatons, retaining and enhancing human resources for rhino conservation and developing awareness of rhino conservation issues . 


In 2001, an international meeting was organized by AfRSG’s Scientific Officer under the auspices of SADC’s Rhino Management Group (SADC RMG) to review lessons learned from biological management of rhinos, and to come up with revised guidelines for the biological management of the species.

Download a copy of the proceedings of this workshop.

The AfRSG has developed and from time to time has revised its training course for instructors in ID-based rhino monitoring technciques. This course has been used in a number of training of trainer courses and has been distributed to and been used in many African Range States. The course has also helped standardize aspects of monitoring (eg. ageing or condition assessment) throughout the continent. 

At is meeting in 2006 the AfRSG discussed the need for the development of guidelines for African and Asian rhino translocation along the lines of those prepared for African elephant. These guidelines are currently being developed by IUCN SSC as collaborative effort between IUCN SSC’s AfRSG, AsRSG, Veterinary SG  and Re-intoduction SG. 

AfRSG specialist veterinary member Pete Morkel has together with Alison Kennedy-Benson has prepared a more detailed manual for the AfRSG and SADC RMG on Translocating black rhinos: current techniques for capture, transport, boma care, release and post-release monitoring. 


The AfRSG together with the AsRSG and TRAFFIC was mandated by Parties at the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to prepare a summary report on the status and trends in rhinos and trade issues worldwide for the CITES Secretariat in advance of recent 14th CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP14) held in the Hague in June 2007.
Download a copy of this report [which was published as an annexe to the CITES Secretariat’s 2007 report to CITES CoP 14 (Doc 54: Interpretation and implementation of the Convention - Species trade and conservation issues: Rhinoceroses)]

CITES parties at CoP 14  mandated AfRSG, AsRSG and TRAFFIC to prepare similar reports for future CITES CoP’s (although the ability of these groups to do this will be contingent upon them securing sufficient funds). 
Download a copy of TRAFFIC’s associated information document to CoP 14 which provides additional information on horn stockpiles, poaching, illegal trade and trade dynamics in Africa click the link below.
To assist CITES parties make informed decisions, AfRSG members have over the years (together with IUCN colleagues and TRAFFIC) reviewed CITES rhino proposals; and on request have also provided technical comment and  information to a number of Parties and to the CITES Secretariat.  One of CITES’s resolutions on Conservation of Rhinoceroses in Asia and Africa was originally drafted by the AfRSG and AsRSG at the request of CITES.
Download a summary of rhino related issues discussed at the latest CITES CoP 14 [from Pachyderm 41 – (2006)] 

To function effectively the AfRSG is dependent on continued support from sponsors; and the AfRSG Secretariat is most grateful for the continuing  core and project support it has received during  2011 from the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), WWF’s African Rhino Programme (WWF ARP) with funding from WWF Netherlands, and also Save the Rhino, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.  

Linton Park Wines are also thanked for a donation, and for seeking to raise additional funding to sponsor the core work of the AfRSG through the sale of their Rhino of Linton Park range of wines.
IUCN SSC is thanked for covering the accommodation and travel costs of the AfRSG Scientific Officer’s participation at CITES CoP15.
The Rhino Resource Centre is thanked for hosting most of the downloadable documents listed above.
Any potential sponsors of its work are requested to contact the AfRSG Chair.