In an effort to bring big mammals back to the former ranges of the African continent, black rhinos will again roam the wilds of the Central African nation of Chad nearly 50 years after they were hunted to local extinction.
Six rhinos are expected to be flown to Chad’s Zakouma National Park from the South African city of Port Elizabeth. The rhinos sedated and confined in specially-crafted crates to ensure they don’t cause a commotion mid-air.
With 18,000 white rhinos and 2,000 of the smaller black rhinos, South Africa is home to about 80 percent of the global population of the pachyderms, making it the springboard for reintroduction efforts elsewhere.
“By establishing a viable and secure population of rhino in Chad, we are contributing to the expansion of the rhino population in Africa, and the survival of a species that has faced high levels of poaching,” said South African Environment Minister Edna Molewa.
The Chad-bound rhinos were in the fortified enclosures or “bomas” for three months in preparation for their long haul.
The animals have been fed lucerne, a kind of super-nutritious hay, the past few weeks. It will be initially provided to them in Chad as they adjust their diet to new trees and shrubs.
No rhino has been seen in Chad since the early 1970s.
The initiative comes against the backdrop of a poaching crisis that saw more than 1,000 rhinos slain in South Africa last year to meet red-hot demand for their horns in Asia, where they are prized for their alleged medicinal properties.