Lonely Planet Writer

Black rhinos return to Rwanda's Akagera National Park after ten-year absence

Ten years after they were last seen, black rhinos will return to Akagera National Park in Rwanda in a historic relocation effort.

Eastern black rhinos were last documented in the park back in 2007, and now a population of up to 20 rhinos will be brought to the country from South Africa over the first two weeks of May.

How many Black Rhinos are left in Rwanda
A member of the capture team monitors the breath of a tranquilised rhino. Image by African Parks

The relocation efforts are the work of African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks around the continent, along with aid from the Rwanda Development Board, funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and additional support from The People’s Postcode Lottery and the Dutch Government.

According to African Parks, back in the 1970s there were more than 50 black rhinos in the parks, but poaching decimated the population, with the last confirmed sighting taking place in 2007.

How many Black Rhinos are left in Rwanda
The capture team assists in navigating a tranquilised rhino towards the crate for transport. Image by African Parks

“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 in a statement. “The rhinos’ 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.”

Akagera is a protected savannah habitat and has been managed by African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board since 2010. At that time, law enforcement within the park was overhauled to reduce poaching. Back in 2015, seven lions were introduced to the park and their population has more than doubled. To maintain the safety of the new rhinos, there will be a rhino tracking and protection team, a canine anti-poaching unit and more.

These conservation efforts are integral to supporting endangered species, but also help support Rwanda’s tourism industry, which relies heavily on people from around the world interested in the country’s incredible wildlife. The rhino project was named one of top 10 New in Travel listings of 2017 by Lonely Planet. One of the most popular activities for travellers in the country is spotting mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

If you want to stay updated on the relocation efforts, visit Rhinomove.org.