Serengeti homecoming: yes, Black Rhinos can fly
Six Eastern Black Rhinos will be airlifted from South Africa to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania on Friday. They are part of an ambitious effort to double the number of rare Black Rhinos in the Serengeti.
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What has become known as the Serengeti Rhino Repatriation Project began eight years ago. It has developed into a partnership between Singita Grumeti Reserves, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, and the Tanzanian National Parks Authority.Skip to next paragraph
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The project's focus so far has been on ensuring that the new home for the first six rhinos will be safe from poachers, and on training an elite force of 24 rangers to guard them.
26 more rhinos on order
Over the next two years, 26 more Eastern Black Rhinos will be moved from South Africa to the Serengeti National Park, one of Tanzania’s most visited parks, which borders Kenya’s Masai Nara National Reserve.
Conservationists calculate that there are fewer than 4,300 black rhinos left anywhere in the wild, down from peak population of 65,000 in the middle of the past century. Here in Tanzania, the addition of 32 black rhinos will almost double the population once this repatriation project is completed.
“It is the largest number of large animals moved the longest distance internationally in history,” says Alistair Nelson, program manager for the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
The rhinos, all young adults between the ages of 4 and 17, were six weeks ago captured from a private South African conservancy. All are descendants of the original seven taken to South Africa in 1964.
Since they were caught, they have been kept in large, fenced pens called bormas to familiarize them with being in enclosed spaces. Two expert rhino handlers have spent weeks introducing them to the crates, which will be used to carry them from South Africa to Tanzania.
Overnight Thursday, they will be ushered into those crates, mildly sedated, and loaded onto a chartered Hercules C-130 airplane for the five-hour flight to the dirt airstrip at Seronera in the Serengeti.
Once in Tanzania, they will again spend their first weeks in specially-constructed enclosures, before being released fully into the wild, in their natural habitat once again.
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