A total of 30 wild white rhinos have been successfully translocated from South Africa to Rwanda in the largest-ever single translocation effort, aimed at establishing a new stronghold for the species in Akagera National Park.
They were sourced from Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa and successfully translocated in Akagera National Park on November 29, with funding provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
This development aims to extend the white rhino range and create a secure new breeding stronghold in Rwanda, by 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 will also help to enhance Akagera’s contribution to Rwanda’s wildlife economy, ensuring that the conservation of their natural landscapes generates long-term benefits for local communities and all Rwandans.
“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,” Ariella Kageruka, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Acting Chief Tourism Officer said.
“This is timely for the conservation of these incredibly threatened species. We’re 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,” Kageruka said.
Their journey covered a total distance of over 3,400 kilometers and forms the largest single rhino translocation in history. The rhinos will be monitored daily in Akagera by a dedicated team and a specialist veterinarian who will be overseeing their acclimation, according to RDB.
“Introductions to safe, intact wild landscapes are vital for the future of vulnerable species like white rhino, which are under considerable human-induced pressures,” African Parks’ CEO Peter Fearnhead said.
“We’re grateful to our partners for making this historic translocation possible – the Rwandan Government for their forward-thinking conservation leadership, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and andBeyond for their integral support. Successes in parks like Akagera in Rwanda and Phinda in South Africa demonstrate how preventing the decline of nature propels prosperity and development,” Fearnhead said.
According to RDB, white rhinos are classified as near threatened with numbers declining across existing strongholds, largely due to poaching driven by demand for their horns. The introduction of southern white rhinos to Akagera expands their range to offer more safe areas for the species.
The successful conservation management of Phinda in South Africa makes the reserve a valuable source for important new rhino populations, according to RDB.
“We have meticulously managed and grown the rhino population at Phinda over 30 years. This has been recognized in many ways, including being selected as the first private reserve to receive animals as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project in 2004,” Simon Naylor, andBeyond Phinda Conservation Manager said.
“We are dedicated to ensuring the survival of the species throughout Africa and are proud to have provided healthy rhino, as well as volunteered our translocation skills, to help boost the creation of a new breeding cluster in Akagera,” Naylor said.
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.
According to RDB, law enforcement was overhauled and robust community programs put in place, allowing for wildlife to increase and for key reintroductions to occur, such as lions in 2015 and black rhinos in 2017 and 2019.
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.
“Our Foundation is pleased to continue to invest in Akagera’s remarkable transformation into a critical national park for Rwanda and an example of responsible conservation for the African continent and the world. While our funding is an important contributor to that success story, none of this would be possible without the leadership of the Government of Rwanda and the dedicated efforts of African Parks,” Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation said.
“It was deeply personal for me to support the first black rhino reintroduction to Akagera in 2017 and it’s incredible that we have the opportunity to support this historic translocation today. Akagera is now positioned to become a key rhino stronghold for the continent, demonstrating what is possible in conservation when public and private partners collaborate,” Buffett said.