our current work...

Conserving Tsavo’s Critically Endangered black rhinos

ZSL has been working with the Critically Endangered Black Rhino Diceros bicornis michaeli in the Tsavo West National Park (TWNP) southern Kenya since 1989. ZSL works to protect the species which had declined to just six individuals, from a population of over 8,000 animals in the 1940’s. With support from ZSL, these remaining six rhinos were moved into the fenced Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, and as a result of significant conservation efforts over the last thirty years, there are now approximately 18% of Kenya’s rhinos inhabiting this area, consisting of the NRS and the free-ranging Intensive Protection Zone. Today, ZSL works to support the Kenya Wildlife Service to maintain zero rhino poaching in the region, via intensive, continuous anti-poaching patrols and through habitat restoration, required due to human encroachment into the national park. By using the innovative open-source Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), on the ground ranger teams monitor, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their patrolling, enabling limited financial and staffing resources to be directed to the areas of greatest need.

Kenya remains the stronghold for the black rhino, making this population globally important for the conservation of this Critically Endangered species. However, with KWS and the Kenya government’s funding of its national parks suffering after the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects of lower tourism income, (worse yet for Tsavo Conservation Area an already under-resourced and vast national park), we are seeking support to protect this critical rhino population to achieve the following:

Objective 1: To strengthen and maintain rhino protection and law enforcement in TWNP through daily adaptive security patrols, with rhino poaching remaining below 1% per annum

 Objective 2: To grow the Critically Endangered black rhino population of TWNP, through continuous biological management and ongoing habitat protection.

Saving Species on the Brink of Extinction – zoo conservation breeding

The world is in the midst of a biodiversity crisis with current extinction rates of a thousand times higher than that of the fossil record, and still rising. According to the IUCN Red List, a fifth of all vertebrates are classed as threatened. Although there are targeted efforts to counteract these declines, there continues to be strong biases in the allocation of conservation resources, with most threatened species (75% of threatened mammals and 90% of threatened amphibians) receiving little or no conservation attention. Those species that are targeted for conservation are typically charismatic large mammals and birds.

ZSL through its two zoos has been involved in conservation breeding for several decades, and is in a unique position to halt extinction of these critically endangered species through conservation breeding and where appropriate, reintroduction. The strong focus on reintroduction and habitat protection of amphibians and invertebrates, is vital for long-term protection of global biodiversity. This work focuses on the species most critically in need and strives to find the most appropriate interventions: from reintroductions to managing the spread of disease. Additionally, ZSL increases scientific and management capacity to achieve more than we could alone, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of conservation actions. ZSL achieves its vision by taking action ourselves and by acting as a conservation catalyst, generating, and sharing knowledge with others and empowering them to act.

This work focuses on the following objectives:

  • Ex situ breeding maintenance of genetically sustainable captive populations within ZSL zoos of all species within these five programmes.
  • Development of husbandry techniques – Development of best practise guidelines to use if appropriate for in country captive breeding, improvement in captive animal health and welfare seen notably in increase reproductive success.
  • Reintroductionreintroduction of species as appropriate with appropriate Disease Risk Assessment prior to release.

This work focuses on the following species:

Species Habitat type IUCN status
Greater and Lesser Bermuda land snails Poecilozonites circumfirmatus and P. bermudensis Forest/shrubland Critically endangered
Polynesian tree snail Partula (11 species) Forest Critically endangered to extinct dependant on species

Vietnamese giant magnolia snail Bertia cambojiensis


Forest Critically endangered

Mountain chicken frog Leptodactylus fallax


Forest / artificial terrestrial Critically endangered
Mexican pupfish: Aphanius danfordii, A. saldae, Cualac tessellatus, Cyprinodon alvarezi, C. meeki, C. simus, C. alvarezi, C. longidorsalis, C. veronicae Wetlands (inland) Near Threatened, Critically endangered or Extinct in the Wild dependant on species

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