Census and ear-notching of black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Shadrack Ngene, Elephus Bitok, Joseph Mukeka, Benson Okita-Ouma, Francis Gakuya, Patrick Omondi, Kennedy Kimitei, Yusuf Watol, Julius Kimani

Abstract


This paper updates the status of the black rhino population in Tsavo East National Park (NP). Data were acquired through aerial counts of the black rhino between 3 and 9 October 2010 using three fixed-wing husky aircrafts and a Bell 206L helicopter in an area of about 3,300 km2. Based on previous sightings of rhinos, the area was divided into 14 blocks, with each block subdivided into 400 m transects. An aircraft flying at about 500 m above the ground was assigned to carry out the aerial survey following these transects within each block. Observers scanned for rhinos about 200 m on either sides of the flight paths. Intensive searches in areas with dense vegetation, especially along the Galana and Voi Rivers and other known rhino range areas was also carried out by both the huskies and the helicopter. The count resulted in sighting of 11 black rhinos. Seven of these individuals were ear notched and fitted with radio transmitters and the horns were tipped off to discourage poaching. Three of the seven captured rhinos were among the 49 animals translocated to Tsavo East between 1993 and 1999. The other four animals were born in Tsavo East. Two female rhinos and their calves were not ear-notched or fitted with transmitters. It is recommended that another count be carried out immediately after the wet season as the rhinos spend more time in the open areas while the vegetation is still green. The repeat aerail count is to include blocks north of River Galana.

Keywords


Aerial count, black rhino, population size, Tsavo East National Park

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