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Rhinos return to Rwanda

A member of the capture team monitors the breath of a tranquilised rhino

Endangered Eastern black rhinos are being translocated to Akagera National Park in Rwanda from South Africa.

The project, undertaken by African Parks, a conservation non-profit, supported by Rwanda Development Board with funding provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, aims to restore the species to Rwanda.

The last Eastern black rhino was seen in Rwanda in 2007. During the 1970s more than 50 black rhinos thrived in Akagera National Park. Their numbers declined under the pressure of wide-scale poaching.

African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead says the project to translocate up to 20 Eastern black rhino to Akagera National Park, a protected savannah habitat, is a monumental achievement. “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.”

The bulk of the animals are being translocated during the first two weeks of May. The People’s Postcode Lottery and the Dutch Government are also providing support to the project.

 “Rhinos are one of the great symbols of Africa, yet they are severely threatened and are on the decline in many places across the continent due to the extremely lucrative and illegal rhino horn trade,” says Fearnhead.

Since 2010 African Parks has worked hard to overhaul law enforcement in the park, reducing poaching to an all-time low.

According to African Parks fewer than 5,000 black rhino remain, of which approximately 1,000 are the Eastern black rhino subspecies. “This reintroduction is an urgent, progressive, and valuable opportunity for their conservation, and serves as a story of hope for the species.”