Johannesburg, South Africa:The first black rhinos to return to the Republic of Chad in almost fifty years have adapted extremely well to life in Zakouma National Park, African Parks announced on Friday 21st September, just one day before World Rhino Day. In May 2018, six wild rhinos were flown from South Africa over 3,000 miles to the secure Chadian park in an historic reintroduction to re-establish the species in the country. Resulting from a collaboration between the Chadian and South African Governments, SANParks and conservation organisation African Parks, the reintroduction has helped interregional efforts to conserve the critically endangered species by expanding its distribution on the continent. The rhino’s return has helped to restore Zakouma’s ecosystem, positively impact tourism which a key driver for the local economy, and serves as an example of what is possible with cross and multi-sectoral collaboration in the conservation of a severely threatened and endangered species.  

Each rhino was dehorned and fitted with a tracking device upon their arrival in Zakouma. They spent close to two months in their bomas, and another two months in a temporary sanctuary where they could acclimatise to their new environment. But they have now been successfully released into the wider, secure park while a dedicated surveillance team continues to track and monitor each animal 24 hours a day. 

First rhino released into the wider park

Regular rhino sightings confirm that all remain in excellent condition, reflecting their healthy adjustment to their habitat. “We’ve worked in concert with the Chadian Government and local communities for eight years to prepare Zakouma for the return of these extraordinary mammals” said Zakouma’s Park Manager Leon Lamprecht. “While most news about rhinos is about their demise, here we are seeing how a collaboration, political action, and funding can help create a successful founding group that can grow into a viable Central African rhino population”. 

Poaching pushed both of Chad’s rhino subspecies, the Western black and Northern white, to extinction several decades ago, with the last Western black rhino recorded in the 1970s. Recent years have seen the Chadian Government make strong commitments to the restoration of its natural heritage, building a future in which biodiversity can meaningfully underpin socio-economic growth to benefit people. 

Zakouma came under the management of African Parks in partnership with the Government in 2010. While Zakouma had a devastating past between 2002 and 2010, during which 90% of its elephants were poached for their ivory, the park has since been transformed into an anchor of security for people and wildlife.  Poaching has practically been eliminated through implementing effective law enforcement and community engagement. Elephant numbers are rising for the first time in decades and while the threat of poaching is ever present, intensive measures are in place to ensure the long-term protection of the rhino population. The rhinos are being tracked constantly by a dedicated ranger unit that has received advanced training, which is supplemented by the well-equipped law enforcement team, aerial surveillance and numerous other security systems. 

An estimated 5,400 black rhinos remain on the planet as a result of the devastating surge in poaching which has dramatically increased since 2006. The Governments of South Africa and Chad signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2017 to enable the translocation of an initial consignment of black rhinos to Zakouma in southern Chad. This unprecedented regional cooperation was initiated to aid the long-term survival of the species on the continent, providing a unique opportunity to encourage population growth and to expand rhino range while contributing to restoring Chad’s biodiversity, enabling both wildlife and people to thrive. African Parks plans to supplement Zakouma’s new rhino population by translocating additional rhinos to the park in 2019.  

The immense logistics of the translocation were helped with the funding support of Margot Raggett, Eyes on You Safaris, Kyle and Ruth de Nobrega along with several private donors. 

Zakouma’s overarching conservation success story has been made possible largely due to the ongoing and generous funding provided by the European Union since 2010.

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About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 15 national parks and protected areas in nine countries covering 10.5 million hectares in Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia. For more information visit www.africanparks.orgTwitterInstagram and Facebook