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Rhino Conservation and Medicine

  • Global Health Program wildlife veterinarian Maureen Wanjiku Kamau with a young rhinocerous
  • A black rhino with thick skin, large ears, a stocky body and a long horn protruding from the end of its snout
  • A large rhinocerous with a stocky body, short tail and long horn running through the fog

Rhinoceros populations across Africa are threatened by poaching, habitat loss and disease. Kenya is home to a significant rhinoceros population, which includes the last two northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), roughly 80 percent of the remaining critically endangered eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and a healthy population of southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum). As such, Kenya represents an important stronghold for rhino conservation.

Many rhino deaths are preventable with proper care and management techniques. To counter threats and ensure that free-ranging rhino receive state-of-the-art veterinary care, the Global Health Program is convening experts in rhinoceros medicine and related techniques (e.g., field and lab methodology) to conduct an advanced rhino medicine workshop in Kenya. This workshop will facilitate knowledge exchanges between rhino experts in Kenya and abroad, and identify opportunities to strengthen veterinary, diagnostic and research capacity to ensure the long-term conservation and health of rhinoceros populations in Kenya.

Through changing environmental conditions and human activities, emerging infectious diseases also pose a threat to wildlife. GHP staff are collaborating with Kenya Wildlife Service and Mpala Research Centre, to identify, characterize and develop treatment plans for a newly recognized severe, ulcerative skin infection of eastern black rhinos in northern Kenya. The cause of this disease is still unknown, and its effects on short-term health and long-term survival of infected rhinos remains unclear.

By actively engaging with veterinarians and scientists from a variety of institutions, including partners at the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy and Mpala Research Centre, the Global Health Program is working to secure a future for Kenya’s rhinoceros populations.

This research was supported, in part, by Friends of the National Zoo's Conservation Nation program.