32 rare black rhinos to be flown from South Africa to Tanzania to increase population

Friday, May 21, 2010

32 rare black rhinos to fly to Tanzania to breed

NAIROBI, Kenya — Five rhinos were flown from South Africa to Tanzania on Friday to boost a population that has been decimated by years of poaching, a wildlife official said.

The three females and two males are the first batch of 32 rhinos being taken to Tanzania in a two-year program to increase the Tanzania’s black rhino population, said Brian Harris, the managing director of the Singita Grumeti reserve in Tanzania that will receive the five rhinos. The country’s rhino population is currently between 60 and 70.

Harris said Friday the five animals are descendants of the Eastern Black Rhino subspecies. They were flown to South Africa over 40 years ago by scientists who were afraid rampant poaching in Tanzania would render the species extinct.

The black rhino population has tumbled from a high of 65,000 across Africa in the 1970s to a low of 2,410 in 1995, largely due to poaching. Recently their numbers have climbed to 4,230 thanks to intensive conservation efforts.

The black rhino is actually gray and has two horns, the longer of which sits at the front of the nose. It is only found in eastern and southern Africa. It is one of the “big five” animals most tourists want to see on safari. The others include buffalo, elephants, leopards and lions.

Moving rhinos is a complicated process. An adult can weigh more than a ton. Friday’s relocation which was organized by Singita Grumeti Reserves, Frankfurt Zoological Society and Tanzanian authorities. Harris said the total cost of the two year program is estimated to be $7 million.

Poaching remains the biggest threat to the survival of the black rhino in Africa, said Alistair Nelson, a program manager with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Last year 150 rhino were killed for their horns in Africa, Nelson said. Harris said the conservationists have trained a special unit of 23 rangers to protect the rhinos that have been moved.

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