Rhinos return to Rwanda after 10-year absence

The capture team assists in navigating a tranquillised rhino towards the crate for transport. Credit: African Parks.

Eastern black rhinos are coming back to Rwanda after the last individual was documented in the country 10 years ago. African Parks in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and with funding provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, is translocating a founder population of up to 20 black rhino to Akagera National Park in Rwanda from South Africa.

Back in the 1970s, more than 50 black rhino thrived in Akagera National Park, but their numbers declined under the pressure of wide-scale poaching until the last confirmed sighting of the species in 2007. The park has undergone a transformation since African Parks assumed management in 2010 in partnership with the RDP.

“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,” said African Parks CEO, Peter Fearnhead. “The rhino’s return to this country however is a testament to Rwanda’s extraordinary commitment to conservation and is another milestone in the restoration of Akagera’s natural diversity.”

Since 2010, African Parks has overhauled law enforcement in the park, reducing poaching to an all-time low in six years. Seven lions were successfully reintroduced in 2015 and the popularion has since more than doubled. Security measures include an expertly-trained rhino tracking and protection team, a canine anti-poaching unit, and the deployment of a helicopter for critical air surveillance.