Thanks to a major global collaboration involving Chester Zoo, Flamingo Land, Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Ree Park Safari, EAZA, the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks, five Eastern black rhino from Europe have safely reached Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
For one rhino, Olmoti, her journey began in November 2018 when she was moved from Flamingo Land to Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic to meet the four other rhino. After months of preparation and with every precaution taken to minimize stress and ensure their well-being throughout the trip, the five rhino were flown to Kigali before being transferred to Akagera National Park by truck.
On the afternoon of 24 June, all five Eastern black rhino were released into bomas (temporary enclosures) in the park where they will remain for at least three weeks to ensure they have time to acclimatise to their new environment. Once they have adjusted, they will be released into a 10-hectare sanctuary where they will continue to be closely monitored for several months as they establish themselves in the area before being released into the wider park to increase the genetic diversity of the rhino population.
“The newly translocated rhinos will bolster the founder group that we introduced in 2017, contributing to the reestablishment of a robust Eastern black rhino population in Rwanda,” said Jes Gruner, Park Manager of Akagera National Park. “This unique achievement represents the culmination of an unprecedented international effort to improve the survival prospects of a Critically Endangered rhino subspecies in the wild. Their arrival also marks an important step in Akagera’s ongoing revitalisation, and one that underscores the country’s commitment to conservation.”
Akagera National Park, a protected savannah habitat in Rwanda, has undergone a remarkable transformation since African Parks assumed management in 2010 in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board. In 2017, ten years after Eastern black rhinos had last been seen in Akagera, the species was reintroduced with the translocation of 18 individuals from South Africa through a project supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Extensive security measures have been implemented to ensure the long-term safety and well-being of Akagera’s rhinos. They include an expertly trained rhino tracking and protection team, a canine anti-poaching unit, and a helicopter for air surveillance.
There are fewer than 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, and of these approximately 1,000 are the Critically Endangered Eastern black subspecies. This rhino translocation forms part of the Government of Rwanda’s vision to revitalise and protect its natural heritage to create a future in which both people and wildlife can thrive.
Follow #RhinosToRwanda and visit www.rhinomove.org to stay up to date with how the rhinos settle in.
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