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Last Updated: Wednesday October 19 2005 12:51 GMT

Endangered rhino given new home

A black rhino

A group of black rhino has been released into a major new game reserve in South Africa to try to save the severely endangered species.

Animal charities have arranged for 20 landowners to take down their fences so the rhinos have lots of room to roam around and hopefully breed.

The 17 rhino will be monitored to make sure they are not attacked by poachers.

This is part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which aims to save the creatures from possible extinction.

The project is a joint venture between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and a South African group called Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

"Tight security for black rhino is essential but it's only one part of the solution," WWF spokesman Dr Jacques Flamand said.

Wiped out

Rhinos are severely endangered

"The other part is ensuring that black rhino numbers increase as fast as possible in order to reduce the threat of extinction from possibilities such as increased poaching, drought, flood and disease."

Extreme poaching virtually wiped out the rhinos in the 1970s and 1980s. At the worst point there were just 2,500 of them left in the world, which meant 96% of the entire population had been killed.

Calves

This group of rhino is the second sent out to new reserves by the project leaders. The first group, which was released in 2004, has been doing very well.

"There have been no losses through fights or accidents," a Dr Flamand said.

He added they were hoping that some baby rhino, called calves, would be born into the first group soon too.