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Black rhinos are returning to Rwanda

Dopo un’assenza durata dieci anni, venti esemplari di rinoceronte nero saranno reintrodotti nel parco nazionale dell’Akagera.

It’s been ten years since the last sighting of an eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in the wild in Rwanda, but the giant is making a comeback. Around 20 individuals of this rare and threatened mammal will be moved from South Africa to the Akagera National Park.

Esemplare di rinoceronte nero
The black rhino is a huge mammal that can reach a length of 3.5 metres and a weight of 1,400kg. Currently, there are 5,000 black rhinos in the wild © Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The decline of the eastern black rhino

“It’s an extraordinary homecoming,” said the African Parks organisation in a statement. The eastern black rhino is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List. In the 1970’s the Akagera National Park was home to more than 50 black rhinos, and the last sighting dates back to 2007.

“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 Peter Fearnhead, head of African Parks. Rhinos are slaughtered at an accelerating rate by poachers for their horns due to the (wrong) popular belief of their therapeutic properties. Only less than 5,000 black rhinos are estimated to survive worldwide, with only 1,000 of the eastern subspecies. Plus, South Africa’s decision to lift its national ban on rhino horn trade is further worsening the situation.

rhinoceroses
Africa is home to 2 species of rhinoceros: the endangered black rhino and the white rhino © Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

An opportunity for the species

The return of black rhinos to the Rwandan national park “represents an important opportunity for their conservation,” the park said in a statement. After being reintroduced into the wild, the rhinos will be protected from poachers by ranger units supported by anti-poaching dogs and aerial surveillance. The operation has been made possible thanks to the financial help from the Howard Buffet Foundation.

Mezzo per il trasporto di rinoceronti
The homecoming of black rhinos will take place in the first two weeks of May © Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A resource for Rwanda

Besides being precious for a balanced ecosystem, the return of rhinos to Rwanda represents a huge economic opportunity for the country, and ecotourism. “We are fully prepared to welcome rhinos and ensure their safety for the benefit of our tourism industry and the community at large,” said Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board. Before rhinos, lions returned to the Akagera park in 2015 after 15 years of absence. Finally, Rwanda can boast the presence of the African big five: rhinos, lions, elephants, leopards and buffalos.

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