The rhinos arrived in Rwanda today around 3am after 6000 km flight that started on Saturday from Europe to Rwanda.
They were transported to Akagera National Park upon arrival at Kigali International Airport where they will be ultimately released into their new wild home.
The translocation of the five rhinos is the largest ever translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa.
This historic journey began at Safari Park Dvůr Králové (Czech Republic) where all five animals have been gathered since November 2018.
It is part of a unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks.
Fewer than 5,000 wild black rhinos and only 1,000 Eastern Black Rhinos remain in Africa; and their future is severely threatened by poaching for the illegal demand for their horns.
This translocation project represents an urgent and valuable opportunity to expand the range and protection of the black rhino, and demonstrate how captive rhinos can help supplement and repopulate wild populations within secure landscapes.
Three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, were chosen from the EAZA EEP. Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Safari Park Dvůr Králové (Czech Republic); Olmoti comes from Flamingo Land (United Kingdom) and Mandela is from Ree Park Safari (Denmark).
The rhinos are being donated to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the governmental body that in partnership with African Parks manages Akagera National Park, the rhino’s new home in Rwanda.
Akagera National Park is an ideal destination for the reintroduction of the animals. In 2017, RDB and African Parks successfully reintroduced 18 rhinos to the Park with support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
Since 2010, the Park has undergone a revival with poaching practically eliminated, allowing for key species to be reintroduced, including lions in 2015 which have since tripled in number, and rhinos in 2017 - a decade after they were last seen in the country.
Strong community conservation efforts have resulted in tremendous support for the Park, and tourism is now leading to Akagera being 80% self-financing, generating US $2 million a year, which goes back to the Park and surrounding communities.
Commenting on the new translocated rhinos, Jes Gruner, Park Manager of Akagera National Park said “We have been preparing for this moment for years and are excited to build on our efforts to revitalize the Park with the RDB and the successful introduction of the first round of rhinos in 2017.”
“This transport of five rhinos from Europe is historic and symbolic, and shows what is possible when dedicated partners collaborate to help protect and restore a truly endangered species,” he added.
The strength of the Park’s management was a contributing factor in the decision for EAZA and its Members to agree to the translocation.
These conditions also will allow for the ongoing study of the five animals from Europe and the existing population as they gradually integrate to contribute to a stable population of black rhinoceros in East Africa.
The Park is a key component of the Government of Rwanda’s strategy to foster economic growth while providing a secure future for wildlife in the country.
According to Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB, the translocation of five rhinos from European zoos to Rwanda will further enhance the natural ecosystem in Akagera National Park.
“This partnership with our European friends is a testament to Rwanda’s commitment to conservation. Today, poaching is almost non-existent in our four national parks and we are confident that these rhinos will thrive in their natural habitat in Akagera. They are a positive addition to Akagera, a Park where tourists can now visit the African Big Five,” she said.
Today, Akagera National Park is home to the big five animals including lion, leopard, rhinos, elephant and buffalos.