In just two weeks time East African black rhinos will return to Rwanda.
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, 02 May 2017 - 04:32 PM.