The Australian Rhino Project (see go.nature.com/28c8s29) aims to move 80 rhinoceroses from South Africa to Australia by 2019 as conservation 'insurance' against the poaching epidemic — at a cost of about US$3.5 million. The first 6 will go this year. In our view, this project is diverting funds and public interest away from the actions necessary to conserve the animals in Africa.
The scheme is supported by the South African and Australian governments, academic institutions in Australia, and corporations and conservation-management organizations. Its cost equates to more than the anti-poaching budget of South African National Parks for 2015. We suggest that this money would be better spent on local, on-the-ground action in South Africa or on education programmes in Asia to reduce demand for rhino horn.
Africa's rhinos are not even the highest priority in pachyderm conservation, particularly because only white rhinos from private collections are to be moved. The global estimated populations of white and black rhinos are 20,170 and 4,880, respectively — still further from extinction than Indian (2,575), Sumatran (275) and Javan (60) rhinos.
We feel that the project has echoes of colonial times, when African resources were exploited. Taking biodiversity assets such as rhinos for 'safe keeping' in the West seems to us as patronizing and disempowering as the theft of cultural artefacts.