The Rhino Keepers follows the trail of blood that began when the first rhino was killed in the Cape of Good Hope in 1647. It is peppered with the histories of the hunters of the 18th and 19th centuries who counted their success by the hundreds of kilograms of rhino horn that they shipped back home. It contains the stories of the early days of conservation when the rhino was on the brink of extinction and men with a great deal of foresight went about establishing wildlife reserves to protect Africa's rhinos.
But more than this The Rhino Keepers focuses on the time-worn tradition of rhino poaching to fuel the demand for the horn in the East, where it is largely used in traditional medicines. It is a book that celebrates the conservationists' fight against the poacher with field rangers, dehorning, radio telemetry, translocations and sheer bloody willpower. It considers the successes and failures of the first rhino war in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia and recounts the establishment of the various NGOs that have sprung up in defiance of the wholesale slaughter of Africa's rhinos.
Clive and Anton reveal the way that the rhino war has shifted since the renewed outbreak of poaching in South Africa in 2008. The renewed efforts of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Rhino & Elephant Foundation and the African Rhino Specialist Group, among others, have largely focused on protecting the supply of rhino horn. While their efforts have seen some success, in conjunction with private rhino owners and government, the poaching continues: 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2011. Clive and Anton argue that this new war has to be focused on the end-user markets in the East. The CITES bans on the international trade in rhino horn have obviously been ineffective in stopping the supply and controlling the demand, and Clive and Anton delve into the uncertain waters of the debate around legalising the international trade in rhino horn.