The first wild rhino calf to be born in Rwanda in over a decade has been confirmed by authorities at Akagera National Park, four months after 18 eastern black rhinoceroses were reintroduced into the park from South Africa.
In a statement, African Parks, the company that manages the park said that one of the translocated rhinos had the calf that was confirmed on Friday, September 22, the same day the globe marks World Rhino Day.
The historic translocation was led by African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent, in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) with funding provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
“While this is the first photographic evidence of the calf, the park’s dedicated rhino monitoring team initially sighted the young calf in August and it has been sighted regularly since. Based on this timing, its mother who has been named Ineza, would have been well in to her 15 to 16-month gestation period when she arrived safely in Akagera in May this year,” reads the statement.
Ineza was brought over from South Africa with her older male calf, which now at two and a half years of age has left his mother and found his own territory and independence in Akagera.
“The first rhino calf to be born in over a decade is a profound moment for Rwanda and its people, a country that is leading in its commitment to the conservation of endangered species,” said Jes Gruner, Akagera National Park Manager.
The collaboration with the RDB in the restoration of the park over the past six years has made bringing back the Eastern black rhino, one the rarest subspecies on the planet, possible in Rwanda, the park managers said.
“Through our management and protection and collaboration with local communities, we’re working to safeguard the growth of an important population of rhinoceroses for the region,” Gruner added.
The park says that these animals are tracked daily by dedicated monitoring teams, and this new calf brings their population total up to 19.
In the 1970s the park was home to more than 50 black rhinos, but under the pressure of poaching their numbers were reduced until the last confirmed sighting of the species in 2007.
Wildlife is now flourishing in the park, where the lion population has more than doubled since African Parks reintroduced seven lions in 2015, and the return of rhinos have made the park a ‘Big Five’ destination.
While a scourge of poaching for rhino horn continues to decimate their numbers across Africa, with fewer than 5,000 black rhinos and 1,000 of the Eastern black rhino subspecies remaining, the birth of Rwanda’s first new calf in this secured sanctuary is a celebration of hope for the species.