Europe to Rwanda: Black rhinos embark on journey Sunday

There are fewer than 5,000 wild black rhinos.

Five eastern black rhinos which belong to a critically endangered subspecies are set to depart Czech Republic on Sunday for a 30 hour flight to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park.

The animals will come from zoos in European countries of Czech Republic, Britain and Denmark, and have all since been brought to the Safari Park Dvur Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic ahead of transportation to the Akagera National Park.

The crash is made up of three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two and nine years old.

There are 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.

Wildlife conservationists say that the translocation project presents an opportunity to expand the range and protection of the black rhino, and demonstrate how captive rhinos can help supplement and repopulate wild populations within secure landscapes.

The translocation is a result of collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks.

Mark Pilgrim, Programme Coordinator for black rhino at the EAZA and CEO of Chester Zoo in the UK said that the initiative will among other things protect the future of the species.

“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 said.

All five rhinos have undergone months of sensitisation to prepare them and minimise stress to ensure the safest journey possible, which will be approximately 30 hours long

Přemysl Rabas, Director of Safari Park Dvůr Králové said that the mammals are expected to adapt well to their new environment in Rwanda as they had been adequately prepared for the move.

“By undertaking a highly supervised and well-planned gradual acclimation process, we 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 said.

 Akagera National Park in 2017, reintroduced 18 rhinos to the Park and has community conservation efforts have resulted in tremendous support with Akagera being 80 per cent self-financing, generating US $2 million a year.

Jes Gruner, Park Manager of Akagera National Park said that they have been preparing to receive the animals for months.

“We have been preparing for this moment for years and are excited to build on our efforts to revitalize the Park with the RDB and the successful introduction of the first round of rhinos in 2017,” he said.  

The CEO of Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi said that the translocation of five rhinos from European zoos to Rwanda will further enhance the natural ecosystem in Akagera National Park.


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