By the 1970s, both black and white rhino populations had declined alarmingly in northern Botswana; the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) had previously been confined to the Kwando-Chobe area but the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) had been common throughout the area until the middle of the 20th century. As a result of over-hunting by illegal hunters and worldwide demand for their valuable horns, as well as inadequate protection by the government, even rhino that had been reintroduced from South Africa were drastically reduced. A survey in 1992 showed 19 white rhino while the black rhino was classified “locally extinct” in Botswana.

To help rectify the situation, the Botswana Defence Force and the Department of Wildlife reacted by creating Africa’s finest anti-poaching operation, laying the groundwork for the reintroduction of rhino into the country. All surviving white rhino were moved to protected sanctuaries until such time as they could be released back into the wild, in national reserves.