Ten black rhinos arrived in Rwanda from South Africa as part of conservation efforts to reintroduce the endangered species to the Akagera National Park.
The rhinos landed at the Kigali International Airport on Tuesday, May 2, with another ten expected next week, according to the Akagera park management.
“The rhino’s return to this country is a testament to Rwanda’s extraordinary commitment to conservation and is another milestone in the restoration of Akagera’s natural diversity,” said Peter Fearnhead, the chief executive officer of African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages Rwandan parks.
The Eastern black rhinos have been translocated to Rwanda from South Africa’s Thaba Tholo Game Ranch.
The last recorded sighting of the large herbivore in Rwanda was a decade ago after increased poaching led to declining numbers and thereafter its extinction.
According to the Rwanda Development Board, Akagera park had about 50 black rhinos but “their numbers declined under the pressure of wide-scale poaching until the last confirmed sighting of the species in 2007”.
The return of the rhino comes nearly two years after Rwanda successfully reintroduced lions in the Akagera park. In July 2015, seven lions were relocated from South Africa to the park and their numbers have since grown to 17, according to the park’s management.
$2 million cost
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the People's Postcode Lottery and the Dutch government supported the rhinos reintroduction.
“Several years ago, as we were struggling to have success combating rhino poaching in other parts of Africa, I made a commitment to President Paul Kagame that we would support the reintroduction of rhinos in Rwanda because we knew this country would protect them,” said Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
“The total relocation operation cost in excess of $2 million” said Sarah Hall, the tourism and marketing manager at Akagera National Park.
“The return of the rhinos to Rwanda's Akagera National Park opens a new chapter in our conservation journey and we are grateful to all our partners who contributed to this achievement,” said Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda Development Board's CEO.
With the reintroduction of the rhino, the Akagera park has now reclaimed the Big Five status – having the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and the rhino.
Rwanda now hopes this will boost the country’s tourism sector, which is its biggest foreign exchange earner.
African Parks indicates that of the twenty rhinos to be brought to Rwanda, about half are female.