Rhino Mayday 2014


Thank you to everyone who attended this year's Rhino Mayday!

Please feel free to comment on this page and share your thoughts about the day. We would like to say thank you to the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL who kindly hosted the day.


  • Cathy Dean, Director, SRI 
  • Michael 't Sas-Rolfes, independent rhino economist
  • Susie Watts, Co-chair of the Species Survival Network Rhino Working Group
  • Susie Offord, Deputy Director, SRI
  • Becca Biddle, Technical Assistant to the Director General, Chester Zoo
  • Dr Lucy Webster, Wildlife DNA Forensics
  • Cath Lawson, Regional Officer - East Africa at WWF
  • John Payne, Executive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance
  • Andrew Gell, technical expert on the use of Night and Infra-red light for Rhino Census
  • Katherine Ellis, Office and Communications Manager, SRI

Talk slides & notes

Cathy Dean - Director of Save the Rhino
An overview of recent news from rhino range states and of Save the Rhino's work over the past year
View slides

Michael 't Sas-Rolfes - independent rhino economist
Horn of contention: South Africa has recently found itself in the grip of a new and seemingly unstoppable rhino poaching crisis. Traditional approaches to this problem involve implementing stricter controls to comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which has attempted to ban rhino horn trade since the late 1970s. Unfortunately, the trade ban has had questionable success over the years, and this has led some to challenge its long-term efficacy as a policy measure. In a bold move, the South African government intends to examine an alternative option: establishing a legal trading regime. This talk sought to explain why.
View slides

Susie Watts - Consultant, Humane Society International and Co-Chair, Rhino Working Group of the Species Survival Network
As so often happens in times of crisis, there has been a knee-jerk reaction to the current spate of rhino poaching in South Africa. Based on the view that everything that can be done has been done, the only solution is deemed to be legalisation of trade in rhino horn. Quite apart from the fact that not everything has been done, resorting to international trade in rhino horn is the most dangerous tactic of all, and it will make matters far worse. Arguments for legalisation, whether based on erroneous assumptions or wilful fabrication, have resulted in pro-trade slogans that are endlessly repeated but never examined. So let's examine them!
View slides

Susie Offord - Deputy Director of Save the Rhino
Demand for rhino horn in Asia, including Vietnam has been identified as one of the biggest drivers of rhino poaching and illegal trade. Research carried out by TRAFFIC into the Vietnamese market for rhino horn has identified two key rhino horn consumer groups, plus a much larger body of potential consumers currently limited by access and income. With an economy growing at a rate faster than those of G7 nations, Vietnam is generating unprecedented individual wealth and an ability to purchase status-conferring luxury products including rhino horn. Susie’s talk discussed the need to change behaviour of consumers by addressing emotional and functional drivers for consumption within these groups through the application of robust demand-reduction approaches and what work is already being done.
View slides

Becca Biddle – Technical Assistant to the Director General at Chester Zoo
Becca explained how the critical situation for Eastern Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in the wild means it is more important than ever to ensure their captive counterparts in European Zoos are being successfully utilised and managed. Becca has spent two years of assisting with the management of the Black Rhino European endangered species programme (EEP) that is co-ordinated at Chester Zoo.

  • The first black rhino born in captivity was in London Zoo in 1868
  • The number of captive born rhinos has grown since then to make up most of Europe’s zoo population
  • There are 79 rhinos in zoos in Europe held in 19 collections. Chester Zoo has 10 rhinos
  • Black rhinos have a role in ex situ conservation management as an insurance population for reintroductions, as an in situ conservation ambassador (an ambassador for populations in the wild), in education and as part of research and husbandry techniques
  • All black rhinos in EAZA zoos are managed as part of the EEP (EAZA = European Association of Zoos and Aquaria)
  • One of the targets of the black rhino programme is to make sure the captive population grows  by 1% a year, and to maintain genetic diversity of 90% over 100 years, which will ensure the health of the population over time
  • This target is achievable, but one of the key challenges is to increase the number of black rhinos held in zoo collections in Europe otherwise the 1% growth rate will be difficult. To achieve this goal space is needed for 100 rhinos but because traditionally large zoos hold white rhinos and smaller zoos hold black rhinos, there is little space to expand
  • The second target of the EEP is to work closely with the AFRSG to make Eastern black rhino ready to return to Africa should this be needed. Recently 6 captives rhinos were sent from Europe to Mkomazi in Tanzania, and much will be learnt from this about returning captive rhinos to wild areas

Dr Lucy Webster - Wildlife DNA Forensics, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA)
The nature of this talk was sensitive and so we cannot go into too many details here however a spate of thefts of rhinoceros horn from European museums in recent years has led to most, if not all, specimens being taken from display. Organised criminal gangs are believed to be behind these thefts and all avenues which could assist with investigating these crimes and preventing further crime are being explored. The UK rhinoceros DNA database project was launched a year ago, with the aim of storing unique genetic information on museum and zoo specimens for use by investigators.

Cath Lawson - Regional Officer - East Africa at WWF
Kenya’s black rhinos and beyond: Cath introduced us to WWF-UK’s work supporting the Kenya Wildlife Service in the implementation of the Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-2016.

  • Kenya is the country with the third biggest black rhino population but the number has fallen drastically from 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s
  • Microchipping has taken place in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park. This helps with prosecutions; if a microchipped horn goes through an airport scanner it can be spotted
  • WWF and partner organisations are rolling out Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Technology (SMART), open-source software tools to help improve the response to poaching
  • Recent changes to the Kenyan Wildlife Conservation and Management Act are significant but supporting implementation remains a priority
  • WWF has led a campaign to make Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) a national priority. They are pleased to see IWT increasingly being discussed on the political agenda including at the London Conference held in Feb 2014 on Illegal Wildlife Trade. Botswana plans to host the next conference in 2015 which will review progress on the plans set out in the London Declaration.

John Payne - Executive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance
John gave us an update on the status of the last remaining Sumatran rhinos and discuss four key lessons that have been learned from the decline in Sabah between 1980 and 2014.
View slides

Andrew Gell - the use of Night and Infra-red light for Rhino Census
Andrew gave an introduction into the use of night observation technology to count the number of rhinos when they are most active. This included the use of infra-red light to assist night vision equipment for monitoring and census activities, with the help of specialist night imaging equipment to help identify individual rhinos. He also discussed the ability of the technology to take still images and video for future reference. Data shows the effectiveness of these technologies as an accurate method of census, with the ability to help reduce the prospect of unknown sighting entries and double-counting.
View slides

Katherine Ellis - Office and Communications Manager at Save the Rhino
Update on a recent project visit to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
View slides

(3) Comments

  • Adam Dadswell
    06 May 2014, 12:07

    Hi there, Mayday was a great event and it was great to hear from such a variety of people. Are there any plans to post details of what was said - I would especially like to review the Rhino farming debate. This was the first time I had heard the debate live and I must admit to being a little angry at the time and would like the chance to review it.
    Also I would have liked to know more about what Save the Rhino have been up to.

  • Laura
    09 May 2014, 17:27

    Hi Adam
    Thanks for your feedback, it's great to hear that you enjoyed the day.
    We will be uploading a summary of all of the talks to this page next week. This will be a short summary of all of the main talks on the day, but not from the debate as we don't have the permission to post these.
    Many thanks

  • Horst Lubnow
    28 May 2014, 11:31

    Thank you for posting the summaries and particularly the slides of this year's Rhino Mayday talks. Now I've got a superb impression of what I missed: Another very informative and rewarding Mayday. Looking forward to next year, Horst

Add a comment

Your email address will not appear on the site
(Tick to hide your name when this comment appears on the site)
Save the Rhino have recently received a large amount of spam. To check you are a real person, we have had to introduce a human-ness question.
Please wait...