Black rhinos from South Africa relocated to Akagera park
Finally, 10 eastern black rhinos have been relocated to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda from South Africa.
Rhinos disappeared from the park about 10 years ago.
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said the May 2 relocation of the rhinos was “a historic move for the nation and the species.”
Rhinos are poaching-threatened animals and only about 1,000 eastern black rhinos remain in the wild around the world. The last sighting of a rhino in Akagera Park was in 2007.
The rhinos were relocation was a result of collaboration with African Parks, which manages protected areas on behalf of several governments across Africa. It manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries: Rwanda, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR), Malawi and Zambia.
Since 2010, African Parks has managed Akagera through a public private partnership with its government partner, the RDB.
According to reports, eastern black rhinos last thrived at Akagera National Park in the 1960s to 1970s with a population of 50 animals, but later almost entirely disappeared due to wide-scale poaching in the 1980s.
The animals are said to be from Thaba Tholo, a game farm in the South African province of Limpopo. They have been kept in quarantine in South Africa and were to within one week.
The rhinos were relocated under an arrangement funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. It involves moving up to 20 eastern black rhinos to Rwanda this May.
In 2015 seven lions were reintroduced in Akagera, and African Parks says their population has grown.
African Parks approach is built around public-private partnership to restore, develop and manage the park as a functioning ecosystem through biodiversity rehabilitation, sound conservation practices and tourism development.
In Akagera, the number of visitors has shot up since African Parks got into management.
The park had 15,000 visitors in 2010 and earned around $200,000 in park fees but by 2015, visitors had hit 32,000 fetching US$1.2 million.
The rhino project in Akagera is a visionary conservation initiative that will see black rhinos restored not just to a park, but to an entire country. The species was nearly eradicated in the 1980s due to wide-scale poaching and the last rhino was seen in the park in 2007.
The reintroduction of rhinos will also cement Akagera’s Big Five status, a classification that will further stimulate tourism and generate additional employment opportunities for local communities who live outside the park.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs committed €200,000 to the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) in support of bringing black rhino back to Akagera National Park. The money funded the sourcing, translocation, reintroduction and protection of the animals. The Dutch funding for the project was first announced at the Save Wildlife Conference in The Hague.
“Restoring and protecting wildlife populations are cornerstones of the African Parks model” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO African Parks. “In a time where the main news coming out of Africa is about poaching and large-scale destruction of wildlife and wild places, this rhino reintroduction is a story of hope and of homecomings. We thank the Dutch Government for their generous contribution and congratulate our government partner, the RDB on receiving this support and the role they have played in the ongoing success of Akagera”.
The oldest of Rwanda’s three national parks, Akagera is 1,120km² in size. The only protected savannah region in Rwanda, the park also consists of rolling hills of acacia, woodlands and a labyrinth of lakes and papyrus swamps. It is home to more than 8,000 large mammals and more than 500 bird species. In July 2015, African Parks successfully reintroduced seven lions into the park, bringing the species back to Rwanda after almost 20 years.
African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes on total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities.