Thirty southern white rhinos have been introduced to Rwanda from South Africa, officials of Akagera National Park (east) announced on Monday (November 29th), who greet the most important “Transfer of history” for these threatened behemoths. It took two days for these animals weighing up to two tonnes to make this journey of some 3,400 kilometers, partly aboard a Boeing 747.
“This project required extreme care and a lot of work. The thirty rhinos had to arrive safely and in good health ”, said at a press conference Peter Fearnhead, the director general of the NGO African Parks, co-manager with the Rwandan authorities of Akagera. The beasts received tranquilizers so “To reduce their stress”, he added.
The operation cost around $ 1 million (some 890,000 euros) and involved 80 people, including veterinarians and wildlife transport specialists.
The southern white rhino, one of two subspecies of the white rhino, is now considered endangered with around 20,000 individuals according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It is classified as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A “new fiefdom”
Its natural habitat is southern Africa, including South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, but it has also been introduced to Kenya in order to combat the threat of poaching, fueled by the demand for horn. In 2017 and 2019, 17 then 5 black rhinos, another species, were reintroduced in the same park in Rwanda. They are now 26.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are around 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild, which places them among the most endangered animals in the world.
With this transfer, African Parks intends to establish for the southern white rhinos a “New fiefdom”. “It will be for them the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment”said Jes Gruner, regional director of African Parks, noting that in South Africa, three rhinos “Are killed every day”. “In Rwanda, not a single black rhino (…) has not been poached since their reintroduction ”, he compares.
Transfers of wild animals are not without risks. In 2018, four out of six black rhinos who were traveling died a few months after arriving in Chad. The thirty southern white rhinos were initially divided into two groups in small enclosures – the size of a football stadium – rich in grass and watering holes.
The animals will then be released and followed “Daily by a dedicated team, who will check their acclimatization, safety and well-being”, insisted on her side, Ariella Kageruka, tourism manager of the Rwanda Development Board. For Rwanda, this transfer also aims to strengthen the attractiveness of tourism, one of the major axes of its development.
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