Five critically endangered black rhinos, born and bred in European zoo environments, are expected to arrive in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park on Sunday from the Czech Republic.
They comprise of three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, which will make the historic journey from Safari Park Dvůr Králové to Akagera National Park, the largest ever translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa.
In a unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and African Parks conservation NGO, the Eastern black rhinoceros will be transported to Rwanda where they will be ultimately released into their new and wild home.
The rhinos are being donated to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the governmental body that in partnership with African Parks manages Akagera National Park, the rhinos’ new home in Rwanda.
RDB’s CEO, Clare Akamanzi said that the translocation of the five rhinos from European zoos to Rwanda will further enhance the natural ecosystem in Akagera National Park.
“This partnership with our European friends is a testament to Rwanda’s commitment to conservation. Today, poaching is almost non-existent in our four national parks and we are confident that these rhinos will thrive in their natural habitat in Akagera,” she said.
She added that the rhinos are a positive addition to Akagera, a park where tourists can now visit the African Big Five.
Mark Pilgrim, Programme Coordinator for black rhino at the EAZA and CEO of Chester Zoo in the UK says that large scale cooperation between EAZA zoos has resulted in a healthy, sustainable population of Eastern Black Rhino.
“This means we can now take a major step towards protecting the future of the species in the wild,” he noted.
Meanwhile, all five rhinos have undergone months of sensitization to prepare them and minimize stress to ensure the safest journey possible, which will be approximately 30 hours long.
During the voyage, they will be inside custom-made crates, and fed and watered regularly. Experienced zookeepers from the Safari Park Dvůr Králové as well as veterinarian Dr. Pete Morkel, a world expert in rhino translocations, will accompany and monitor the rhinos throughout the entire trip, as well as their release into the Park.
Přemysl Rabas, the Director of Safari Park Dvůr Králové said that by undertaking a highly supervised and well-planned gradual acclimation process, they believe these rhinos will adapt well to their new environment in Rwanda.
“They will first be kept in bomas–enclosures made by wooden poles. Later, they will enjoy larger enclosures in a specially protected area. The final step will be to release them into the northern part of the national park where they will roam free,” he noted.
Fewer than 5,000 wild black rhinos and only 1,000 Eastern Black Rhinos remain in Africa; and their future is severely threatened by poaching for the illegal demand for their horns.
Akagera National Park is an ideal destination for the reintroduction of the animals. In 2017, RDB and African Parks successfully reintroduced 18 rhinos to the park with support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
Since 2010, the Park has undergone a revival with poaching practically eliminated, allowing for key species to be reintroduced, including lions in 2015 which have since tripled in number, and rhinos in 2017 – a decade after they were last seen in the country.
The Express News