The South African National Biodiversity Institute says that the White Rhino or Square-lipped rhino is the largest living species of rhinoceros. Picture: jelices/Pixabay
The South African National Biodiversity Institute says that the White Rhino or Square-lipped rhino is the largest living species of rhinoceros. Picture: jelices/Pixabay

30 South African white rhinos relocated to Rwanda

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Jan 6, 2022

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Thirty endangered white rhinos were introduced to their new home in Rwanda following a long flight from South Africa.

The oversize passengers travelled in a Boeing 747, conservationists said, hailing it as the largest single transfer of the species ever undertaken.

The translocation was carried out through a collaboration between the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), African Parks and andBeyond, with funding provided by the Howard G Buffett Foundation.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute says that the White Rhino or “Square-lipped rhino is the largest living species of rhinoceros. The square-lipped rhino has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of the rhino species.

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There are two subspecies: southern white rhino (C. simum simum), with an estimated 20 405 wild living animals in 2013, and the much rarer northern white rhino (C. simum cottoni).”

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the white rhino as near threatened due to widespread poaching for their horns.

The translocation of the rhinos is aimed at extending the range of the animals and securing new breeding groups in Rwanda.

A more diverse rhino gene pool would ensure the long-term survival of the species at a time when increased levels of poaching continue to exert unsustainable pressure on current populations.

This initiative will also benefit the local economy of Akagera ensuring that the conservation of their outstanding natural landscapes generate long-term benefits for local communities and all Rwandans.

The rhinos began their 40-hour journey to the new home in following months of preparation, said African Parks, a charity headed by the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry which is involved in the exercise.

Wildlife veterinarians had to sedate the animals to keep them docile for the duration of their journey.

“We had to tranquillise them to reduce their stress, which is itself risky, and monitor them,” said African Parks’ CEO Peter Fearnhead.

RDB Acting Chief Tourism Officer, Ariella Kageruka said in a statement that “this is an opportunity for Rwanda to substantially advance its contribution to rhino conservation, with Akagera poised to become a globally important sanctuary for black and now white rhinoceros.

“This is timely for the conservation of these incredibly threatened species. We’re extremely proud of our conservation partnerships and our national parks, which are playing a pivotal role in meeting biodiversity targets and in driving sustainable, transformative, equitable socio-economic growth.”

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the white rhino as near threatened due to widespread poaching for their horns.

The Akagera park boasts a highly trained, incredibly efficient anti-poaching unit to ensure the rhinos and other wildlife are protected. These units consist of experienced and dedicated game rangers as well as their trained canine counterparts.

“Thanks to the efforts of our Rangers, including their canine counterparts, and due to community involvement, poaching has remained at an all-time low over the past three years in Akagera, a far cry from where we were almost a decade ago,’ the Park says.

Before African Parks took over management in 2010, lions and rhinos had been hunted, almost completely and 30 000 cattle were grazing inside the park. Poaching was rampant, and tourism was just trickling along.

Akagera has become Rwanda’s only Big Five destination and is home to thriving populations of lions, rhinos, elephants and leopards.

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