@sadguy88 Karibu to Safaritalk.
The sable antelope is a species very much associated with miombo woodland a habitat that doesn’t occur anywhere in the Serengeti, their distribution in the country extends from the west side of Tanzania through central Tanzania to the north eastern coastal region. Their range just includes the south east corner of Kenya, this is the northern limit of their distribution I guess it does just come down to their habitat preference. Their close relative the roan does occur in the Serengeti but I don’t think they’re that common, roan are found in many of the same areas of Eastern and Southern Africa but their distribution also includes practically the whole of the Sahel region from Ethiopia to Senegal where sable are completely absent. Greater kudu do occur in the Serengeti but mainly in the south however they’re not common they're a species of woodland and scrub, I think they are most common in the Maswa Game Reserve south of the park. However they’re not really that common anywhere in the north of Tanzania, the place to see them is Ruaha or Selous where they are as common as they are in Southern Africa.
Greater kudu map
I’ve no doubt that white rhinos could be introduced to the Serengeti, the African mammals expert Jonathan Kingdon in his book Island Africa suggests that white rhinos could be introduced to many parks across Africa without doing any harm to other species. In the second edition of his field guide the historical distribution map for the species shows them occurring across pretty much the entire continent outside of the rainforest and driest desert, with the northern subspecies throughout Central and north western Africa almost everywhere west of the Nile and the southern subspecies from Southern Africa up to north eastern Africa east of the Nile. Clearly at one point in the past there would then have been white rhinos in the Serengeti. Of course when he was suggesting that white rhinos could be introduced into many African parks this was at a time when the southern white at least was recovering and increasing in numbers and was being reintroduced to parts of its former range. Before the poaching of rhinos had reached the extraordinary levels that it has in recent years, when no one could ever have imagined that a white rhino in a zoo could be killed for its horns.
In recent times during the colonial period the northern white was distributed across northern Central Africa roughly between Lake Chad in the west and the Nile in the east, this distribution included West Nile Province in Uganda. In the early 60s conservationist in Uganda realised that the population had dropped to around 80 or so white rhinos surviving in a few small game reserves west of the Nile and that these animals were in serious danger and could easily die out so they decided to capture some and translocate them to Murchison Falls National Park just a few miles to the East where in theory they could be better protected. This was I think the second rhino translocation in Africa after the reintroduction of black rhinos to Akagera NP in Rwanda in 1958. Initially the rhinos in MFNP did well, eventually the park was home to a small population of around 30 northern whites but they did not escape the attention of poachers who killed perhaps half of them. Then unfortunately the dictator Idi Amin decided to invade the Kagera region of Tanzania claiming it as part of Uganda this led to the Tanzania – Uganda war in 1978-79 the Tanzanian army invaded Uganda and ousted Amin, in the closing stages of the war they chased the retreating Ugandan troops northwards up through MFNP and into West Nile. It is generally believed that Tanzanian soldiers poached all of the remaining rhinos in the park and any rhinos still surviving in West Nile. The last white rhino in MFNP was seen in 1982 so by the mid 80s the northern white was entirely extinct in the country.
There may have been some northern whites still surviving in South Sudan at this time, the only northern whites taken into captivity were captured in Shambe NP in South Sudan in 1973 which is why the last (known) surviving male living at Ol Pejeta in Kenya is called Sudan. After Uganda’s rhinos were lost the last known population of northern whites was in Garamba NP in Zaire/DRC for sometime there was hope that this population could be saved and revived as was done with the southern white. If the numbers in Garamba could be built up then eventually rhinos could be reintroduced to Uganda however as in Uganda war ultimately led to the demise of these rhinos. When it became clear to the Ugandans that Garamba’s rhinos had been lost and the captive northern whites were not breeding any hope of reintroducing the northern white had to be abandoned. However the Ugandans were determined that they would bring rhinos back to the country so they decided to introduce southern whites and there is now a small population of them in the Ziwa rhino sanctuary just south of MFNP. Since the captive northern whites failed to breed after they were moved to Ol Pejeta the population of this subspecies has dropped to just 3 known animals only IVF and probably cloning technology can hope to revive the northern white or at least create a hybrid population. Even if this can be done and there’s no guarantees, it will take a long time, it’s unlikely that Uganda will wait to see if this is successful, the plan when there are enough rhinos in Ziwa will be to move some to MFNP if it's safe enough, eventually Ziwa will have too many rhinos and the surplus will have to go somewhere. If rhinos are reintroduced to MFNP sometime soon then they will be southern whites.
I wouldn’t think that Tanzania has any plans to introduce white rhinos to the Serengeti/NCA because of the difficulty of protecting them, one of the reasons white rhinos are being hit so hard by poachers aside from there being more of them is that they are much more conspicuous animals than black ones. In the Serengeti they would be an easy and tempting target for poachers. In Kenya they have had some debate over the high cost of protecting white rhinos because technically they’re not a native species and that money could be spent on protecting the black rhino that is native. There is though also an argument for saying that the black rhino has to some extent benefited from the introduction of white rhinos because poachers tend to target whites more than blacks their preference for more open habitats makes them more conspicuous and easier to poach. I would think if the Tanzanians were to introduce white rhinos they might be able to protect them reasonably well in the Ngorongoro Crater if they put some there but protecting them elsewhere in the NCA or in Serengeti would be very difficult given that they can’t be fenced in. Until the demand for rhino horn is drastically reduced and with it the price of horn I honestly think the Serengeti would be too dangerous for white rhinos unless they were accompanied by TANAPA rangers at all times and even then that wouldn't guarantee their safety.
As has to be the case these days distribution maps for rhinos show only the countries that they occur in and not the areas where the animals are actually located.
White rhino map
Edited by inyathi, 11 March 2017 - 01:18 PM.