Rhinos Return to Rwanda The mighty Eastern black rhino has returned to Rwanda. In a remarkable achievement for the conservation of this endangered species, 18 of the approximately 1,000 animals left in the wild have made the long journey from South Africa to Rwanda. With the reintroduction of rhinos, Rwanda has cemented its place as a leader in wildlife conservation, not just in Africa but across the globe. By David Toovey
A Historic Journey At midnight on 2 May 2017, a historic flight departed from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. On board, ten Eastern black rhinos bound for their new home: Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The majestic (and massive) animals were making the 4,000 km journey from Thaba Tholo Game Ranch in the South Africa’s north to Akagera, Rwanda’s protected savannah park. A week later, eight more rhinos joined their kin, taking the total number of rhinos in Rwanda to 18. The story of returning rhinos to Rwanda began in 2010 when the Rwanda Development Board, which manages the country’s national parks, entered into an agreement with African Parks to manage Akagera. African Parks is a non-profit conservation organization that manages national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments to save wildlife, restore landscapes and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local communities.
On board, ten Eastern black rhinos bound for their new home: Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
Since that time, Akagera has been rejuvenated and the park is returning to its former glory. The management of the park overhauled law enforcement and began the process of restocking the park with species that historically called Akagera home. The first such wildlife translocation was the reintroduction of seven lions in 2015 after a 15 year absence due to poaching. Today, the number of lions in the park has risen to 19.
A Conservation Imperative The brutal onslaught of poaching of rhinos across Africa has resulted in fewer than 5,000 black rhino remaining in the wild. Of these, only 1,000 are the Eastern black rhino subspecies. In the 1970s, more than 50 black rhinos thrived in Rwanda, but their numbers declined under the pressure of poaching. The last Eastern black rhino was seen in Akagera in 2007.
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