The radical bid to rewild 2 000 South African rhinos

October 21, 2023

“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” – Dr. Jane Goodall, conservationist

As humans, we’re highly sentient beings, imbued with a primal urge to care for the world around us and understand our place within it. For me, there’s no better way to show care than saving Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces – hotbeds of critical biodiversity on which we all depend. But care is premised on understanding. How can we be of help without truly understanding what it is we’re helping and why? It’s long puzzled me that the nuanced intricacies of effective wildlife conservation are so rarely understood. Yet, thankfully, the inherent human urge to help and to provide care continues to power positive developments. 

The recent news of African Parks’ decision to step in, purchase, and commit to rewilding 2 000 captive southern white rhinos, bought at a South African auction that drew no other bidders, blew my mind. This is a landmark moment for a species near extinction in Africa. Understandably, feelings of awe, admiration and excitement rippled through our team and the industry at large when news of this vast undertaking broke. But, like all the most noble, selfless acts in life, nothing comes easily. As born and bred Africans, we know what it takes to rewild and protect endangered wildlife. Conservation is the core of everything we do at ROAR AFRICA. Responsible, thoughtful tourism generates the income these national parks, and indeed the lodges and initiatives we partner with, need to protect the wildlife we cherish. By playing our part, we’re directly contributing to safeguarding the profound beauty of nature as it should be.

Rhino conservation

The complexities of rhino conservation

Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, described the non-profit’s decision to save these rhinos as “one of the most exciting and globally strategic conservation opportunities.” We couldn’t agree more. How the auction of roughly 15% of the remaining southern white rhino population came to be, is a tale of the costs and complexity associated with conservation. 53% of all black and white rhinos, alongside their subspecies, live on private land, falling under private ownership. We discussed the difficulties these owners face with rhino conservationist and Council of Contributors founder Kennedy Zakeer last year. Kennedy provides conservation and anti-poaching support to these landowners, given that governmental assistance is zero to none. This auction was itself the result of the financial impossibility the previous owner faced. The costs of regular dehorning, aerial anti-poaching surveillance, tagging, rehabilitation, and veterinary services for even one rhino annually are vast. More unfathomable still is the erroneous belief held predominantly in Asia that rhino horn is a status symbol with medicinal benefits. Again, we must all play our part. At our recent Women’s Empowerment Retreat in the heart of Malilangwe Private Reserve in my homeland of Zimbabwe, ROAR AFRICA contributed to the funding of a new data-tracking system for the protection of Malilangwe’s rhinos. To see these rhinos thriving in their natural environment was an emotional experience for everyone present, and it’s entirely thanks to the ceaseless vigilance of Malilangwe Trust ecologist Sarah Clegg (who was one of our speakers) and the rangers, some of them ex-poachers themselves.  

This complexity is what makes African Parks’ purchase so extraordinary. Their objective is to rewild and translocate all 2 000 rhinos, plus any offspring (estimated to be 100 per year) over the next 10 years to well-protected wildlife areas across Africa. This plan will require intense collaboration between multiple African governments, NGOs, national parks, and rangers, with the first rhino translocation planned for early 2024.

Rhino collage 2

The people and places making a difference

Conservation and life-changing up-close encounters with wildlife are central to every ROAR AFRICA experience. Nothing comes close to the unbridled delight and sheer wonder of witnessing an animal roaming free in the untamed wild. I chose to share this good news of the rhinos with you to highlight both the fragility of Africa’s wildlife and the privilege to go and see these magnificent creatures in person.

We intentionally hand-pick lodges, expert guides and partners that share our determination to imbue every guest safari experience with actionable conservation and learning opportunities. 

South Africa currently has the largest population of wild rhino, and a safari in one of the country’s pristine reserves and national parks offers the best chance to witness one of these precious megaherbivores in the wild. Tswalu, a beacon of sustainability and conservation in the Kalahari, offers spectacular rhino encounters and the unique opportunity for guests to personally assist with notching and tagging young rhinos. Phinda, a 70 560-acre private game reserve nestled deep in KwaZulu-Natal, has a similar program. Sabi Sands and the greater Kruger National Park also have growing populations of rhino thanks to remarkable conservation efforts, which Singita is heavily involved in. 

Rhino collage 3

What it takes to save a species

Beyond South Africa and the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, conservancies in Kenya are pushing hard to protect their small but growing rhino numbers. Ol Jogi in northern Kenya has long provided a safe haven for the rare eastern black rhino subspecies. The conservancy has slowly and steadily grown that population from just a few rhinos left in 1980 to over 100 today. Nearby, Ol Pejeta has a radical rhino conservation project underway. Considered functionally extinct since 2018 with the death of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on earth, scientists are attempting to reverse the extinction of the species using in vitro fertilization to impregnate the last two remaining female northern white rhinos. If successful, we could see the birth of a rhino calf in 2025, transforming the trajectory of this species. What an incredible feat!

The collaborative conservation modeled by African Parks and so many of our partners fills me with cautious optimism for the future of Africa’s wildlife. By choosing to invest your time and resources in traveling to Africa, you’re directly impacting the initiatives on the ground that need it most. To care for the earth and all those we share it with is a privilege, and this very care is also how we ultimately heal our collective selves. 

To learn more about rhino conservation experiences in the wild or to book a life-changing safari, contact

We aim to minimize the environmental effects of ROAR AFRICA travel by purchasing carbon credits equivalent to our emissions, protecting wildlife and investing in the communities that host us. 


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