Joy befell Rwanda following the announcement last year that the EAZA zoos had donated critically endangered eastern black rhinos to the country. The donation and translocation of the five black rhinos was as a result of unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks. The three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, were selected from European zoos.
The eastern black rhino, one of the sub-species of the rhinoceros, is in critical danger of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Rhinos are one of the great symbols of Africa yet they are severely threatened and are on the decline in many places across the continent due to the extremely lucrative and illegal rhino horn trade,” said African Parks boss Peter Fearnhead. During a Uganda safari tour, tailor a Uganda wildlife safari that will take you to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for a Rhino trekking safari on your visit Uganda.
How were the Rhinos transported?
A chartered cargo plane, Boeing 747-400F operated by Air Atlanta under the brand name of ‘Magma’ carried these five black rhinos to the Kigali International Airport. Upon arrival at the airport, the Rhinos alongside their huge cargo containing their feed were offloaded Offloading from the plane and taken to their final destination; Akagera National Park. The preparation process took several months. It started in autumn last year when two animals were brought here from Denmark and England. They started to bond, which always takes weeks because black rhinos are very alert and nervous animals,” said rhino handler Jaromir Sejnoha from the Dvur Kralove Safari Park.
“In the final phase of preparations the rhino is trained to stay inside the box for several minutes. We feed them and hug them in there, so they aren’t scared of the box and become accustomed to it, and so on the day of transportation they don’t get nervous and the whole transportation goes smoothly.”
The arrival of the rhinos marks the second translocation to Rwanda after South Africa donated 17 rhinos in 2017, reintroducing the species after it had disappeared for over a decade due to intense poaching. That initial population has now grown to 20 in the park, which is considered an excellent habitat for the rhinos. “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,” said Jes Gruner, manager of Akagera National Park. “Just under a decade of management with improved law enforcement and strong community and economic development initiatives has seen poaching practically eliminated, key species including lion and rhino returned, significant support fostered for conservation, and vibrant tourism leading to Akagera being 80 percent self-financing.”
Essence of bringing in these Rhinos in Akagera National Park
The Head of Conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) communicated that the rhinos will bring considerable benefits to the country especially for tourists who are interested in Rwanda wildlife safaris. “Even though we already have rhinos from South Africa, to ensure a healthy population, you have to bring in species that is from a different group to allow integration,” he said. The more you bring in rhinos to integrate, he added, the more the assurance of strength of genes that are strong and resistant.
The first major step in that direction was taken in 2015 when a pride of seven lions was translocated to the park from South Africa, the first time lions were returning to Rwanda after over 20-years of absence after Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 as Rwandans who had fled the slaughter returned and occupied the park killing the lions to protect their livestock. In May 2017, 18 Eastern Black Rhinos were also translocated from South Africa to the savannah park. Now Akagera is home to the Big Five; lions, elephants, leopards, rhino, and buffalo the major tourist attractions in Africa. During a safari Rwanda, you can see these animals on your Rwanda wildlife tour in the park.
History of the black Rhinos in Rwanda
The park, which takes its name from the nearby Kagera river, is located near the border with Tanzania. Akagera Park was historically home to a diversity of large African mammals including the black rhinos however, many of them were hunted to local extinction over recent decades. Back in the 1970s, more than 50 black rhinos thrived in Akagera National Park, but their numbers significantly dropped as poaching increased over the years until the last confirmed sighting of the subspecies in 2007.
But in recent years the Government of Rwanda and managers of the park stepped up efforts to reverse the trend and turn it into a top destination again. The black rhinos will be returning to their natural habitat in Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda, where an entire rhino population had been wiped out in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
What people say about the reintroduction of the black rhinos in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park
Sarah Hall, the Marketing Manager of Akagera National Park Rwanda reported that “People are definitely excited about the reintroduction of black rhinos but we are primarily doing it for conservation reasons. Black rhinos are fewer than mountain gorillas on the continent, they are about 900 left in the world, so we have a responsibility to provide a safe place for them to grow.” She further reported during her interview that they are not currently focusing their attention on marketing black rhinos as they are not easy to reach since they like to hide and tend to be aggressive. “They are not the easiest species to see on a wildlife safari because they are generally solitary,” she said.
Unlike white rhinos in Uganda, black rhinos like thick bush, are secretive and tend to be more aggressive.
Will tourists on Rwanda tours see these Rhinos
Rhinos kept in the zoo will be accessed by tourists on Rwanda wildlife safaris in Akagera National Park Rwanda. They will live in enclosed spaces with the aim of increasing their adaptability and survival rate.
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