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Posted (edited)

In just two weeks time East African black rhinos will return to Rwanda. :D

 

Back in 1961 and 62 a number of East African black rhinos Diceros bicornis michaeli were captured in the Tsavo region of Kenya and taken to Addo Elephant NP in the Eastern Cape. Rhinos at this time were entirely extinct in the Cape, having ideal habitat it was hoped that Addo would provide a secure home for the rhinos, and that they would form an insurance population given the increasing level of poaching in East Africa. In 1977 three bulls of the south central subspecies D. b. minor were unfortunately moved to the park from Zululand, In 1980 the IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group sent a request that these bulls and any hybrid calves they might have produced be removed to preserve the genetic integrity of the michaeli rhinos. The rhinos thrived in Addo until SANParks decided they wanted to replace these rhinos with so called Cape black rhinos D. b. bicornis it had been thought that this subspecies was extinct, but it was recently determined that black rhinos in Namibia in fact belong to this subspecies. The East African blacks were removed from Addo, while some were sent up to Tanzania to the Ngorongoro Crater to inject some new blood into the existing population and some to the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, the rest went to a ranch called Thaba Tholo in Limpopo Province; from there some have since been sent to the Serengeti.

 

20 of these East African black rhinos at Thaba Tholo have now been captured and will soon begin the long journey from South Africa up to Rwanda to found a new population in Akagera National Park. The original black rhinos found in Rwanda were presumably hunted to extinction in colonial times, but remarkably in 1958 the first ever rhino translocation in Africa was carried out, re-establishing black rhinos in Akagera NP, the rhinos thrived in their new home. Even more remarkable than the fact that rhinos were reintroduced in 1958, is the fact that the very last of their descendants survived until 2007, somehow despite Rwanda’s civil war and the loss of half of the park, a few rhinos managed to survive. Unfortunately not quite long enough and the last of the rhinos died just three years before African Parks officially came in in 2010 to manage Akagera.

 

African Parks, The Akagera Management Company and the Rwanda Development Board are now returning these animals to the park once more, the rhinos are due to arrive in Akagera on the 16th of May. These animals should thrive just as their predecessors did and form a new and important population of D. b. michaeli rhinos back in East Africa, and I hope in the future provide a source of rhinos for further reintroductions elsewhere, perhaps someday into Uganda where black rhinos are extinct. Following the successful reintroduction of lions in 2015 Akagera will soon be a 'big five' park once more which should be very good news for tourism to the park.

 

"

I was extremely pleased when I first heard that African Parks would be taking on Akagera NP having been privileged to visit in 86 and I have been waiting some years to hear this news, it's fantastic to know that it is finally happening. :) :)

 

You can follow the story at Rhinos Return to Rwanda

Edited by inyathi
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Very pleased to hear that everything is moving forward as planned. Akagera is a great park, and I really hope that it will attract more visitors once it is a Big 5 park again.

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Wonderful news. hope we hear the same of rhinos for Zakouma soon. :)

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Good news. I hope they flourish.

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This is great news. I am glad to read that AP will have security measures to protect against poaching.

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There are two new press releases about this fantastic project. 18 rhinos have been released in Akagera National Park, Rwanda, in two phases respectively led on 2nd of May and 9th of May.

 

https://www.african-parks.org/newsroom/press-releases/rwanda-welcomes-the-return-of-the-rhino-after-ten-year-absence?utm_source=General&utm_campaign=4d40211bc6-Rhinos_Return_to_Rwanda_After_Ten_Year_A5_1_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_910640ff48-4d40211bc6-331911973

 

https://www.african-parks.org/newsroom/press-releases/rhinos-return-to-rwanda-after-ten-year-absence

 

AP is now working to secure rhinos for Zakouma NP in Chad, which reintroduction is been planed for early 2018.

 

The NGO has been very active in the last two years to recover different landscapes:

- Lions and rhinos reintroduction projects at Akagera, Rwanda.

- Rhinos reintroduction project at Zakouma, Chad.

- Elephants and big game at Nkhotakota, Malawi.

- Big game at Majete and Liwonde, Malawi.

- Lions at Liuwa Plains, Zambia.

- Game species programed at Bangwuleu marshes, Zambia.

- Cheetah at Liwonde, Zambia. Reintroduced few days ago (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1857873164464262&id=1604798476438400)

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~ @inyathi

 

Was a video posted?

 

All I see is a blank post, yet several members have “liked” it.

 

Tom K.

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@Tom Kellie 

I’m sorry you’re not able to see videos it must be pretty frustrating, but at least you can see the rest of Safaritalk.

 

Yes I just posted a couple of videos showing the transportation of the rhinos to Akagera, the second one is from the news channel Kigali Today and is interesting because it features Jes Gruner the manager ‘park warden’ of Akagera talking about the rhinos. I know that when reintroducing rhinos it’s generally recommended to start with a founder population of around 20 animals, he explains that it is necessary to try and introduce the rhinos all in one go or at least within a very short time period of ideally no more than four months. Black rhinos are extremely territorial so if the first animals have already settled in and established territories when the next batch arrives they will end up fighting and this could result in animals being killed which you certainly don’t want. If they are all released together then they will hopefully all go off in search of their own territories without too much fighting. He also explains about all of the improved security measures that they have put in place to keep the rhinos safe.

 

Given that this enterprise has cost $2 million I’m sure APN are confident that the security measures they’ve put in place will keep the rhinos safe and that they will soon be able to announce the birth of the first new Rwandan calves. The arrival of these rhinos is very important for the East African black rhino population. I hope that in time they will establish a rhino exchange with Tanzania and Kenya so that bulls can be traded when necessary, such an exchange already exists between Malawi and South Africa. In the Majete Game Reserve in Malawi if a single bull has fathered more than a certain number of calves they may decide it’s time for him to move on and they will then capture him and send him down to a reserve in South Africa in exchange for a new and unrelated bull, helping to maintain genetic diversity in both populations. As is the case in Rwanda black rhinos had become completely extinct in Malawi albeit slightly 20 years or so earlier back in the 80s and were reintroduced not that long afterwards from South Africa first to a fenced sanctuary in Liwonde NP and then more recently to Majete Game Reserve. They're managed as a single population to keep them genetically healthy, in time I would assume that APN will establish a third population in Nkhotakota  Wildlife Reserve. Operating a similar system in East Africa should help to avoid the issue of inbreeding depression which could otherwise be a serious problem. The genetics of black rhinos is evidently quite poorly understood and many entire populations have been wiped out and surviving populations mixed up, I have just been reading a paper on this subject which I will post in a new thread. 

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~ @inyathi

 

Thank you for this helpful explanation.

 

The blank area in this post is larger than usual, as if several videos had been posted.

 

It's clear and in keeping with what I'm very gradually coming to grasp about the management of threatened species.

 

Such background context deepens appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes in African protected areas.

 

For an ordinary tourist like myself, without information such as you've provided, it's easy to be lulled into complacency about what's observed on game drives.

 

Tom K.

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