Rwanda receives 30 white rhinos from South Africa

Young Male White rhinoceros, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Nakasongola, Uganda

Rwanda has received 30 white rhinos from South Africa, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said on Monday.

The animals landed safely and were driven to their final home in Akagera National Park, in eastern Rwanda, the RDB said in statement.

“This is an opportunity for Rwanda to substantially advance its contribution to rhino conservation, with Akagera poised to become a globally important sanctuary for black and now white rhinoceros,” RDB Acting Chief Tourism Officer Ariella Kageruka said in the statement.

“We are extremely proud of our conservation partnerships and our national parks, which are playing a pivotal role in meeting biodiversity targets and in driving sustainable, transformative, equitable socio-economic growth,” she said.

According to the RDB, the translocation of the rhinos, sourced from and beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, aims to extend the white rhino range and create a secure new breeding stronghold in Rwanda, supporting population growth to ensure the long-term survival of the species in the wild, as high levels of poaching continue to exert unsustainable pressure on current populations.

The translocation, carried out through collaboration between the RDB, African Parks, and beyond, will also help to enhance Akagera’s contribution to Rwanda’s wildlife economy, ensuring that the conservation of the outstanding natural landscapes generates long-term benefits for local communities and all Rwandans, the statement said.

According to RDB, the rhinos will be monitored daily in Akagera by a dedicated team and a specialist veterinarian who will be overseeing their acclimation.

“Introductions to safe, intact wild landscapes are vital for the future of vulnerable species like the white rhino, which are under considerable human-induced pressures,” the statement quoted Peter Fearnhead, chief executive officer of African Parks, as saying.

In 2010, the RDB and African Parks partnered to manage Akagera, transforming the park into one of the most coveted wildlife destinations in Africa and a sustainable revenue source for the region’s communities, the statement said.

To ensure that this new population of white rhinos also flourishes, each rhino has been fitted with a transmitter to enable constant monitoring by dedicated tracking teams; a canine anti-poaching unit and helicopter surveillance are also in place to provide further support for their long-term protection, the RDB said.

There were more than 50 black rhinos in Akagera National Park in the 1970s, but the number declined under the pressure of large scale poaching, until the last confirmed sighting there of the species in 2007, according to the RDB statement.

Since 2010, Akagera National Park has undergone a revival, with poaching practically eliminated, allowing for key species to be reintroduced, including lions in 2015, which have since tripled in number, and rhinos in 2017, a decade after they were last seen in Rwanda, the statement said.

Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only protected savannah region with a wide range of animals, including buffalos, elephants, leopards, zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and antelopes.