30 White Rhinos Airlifted 2,000 Miles In Largest Rhino Relocation Mission Ever

The largest single rhino translocation ever has taken place in Rwanda, as conservationists flew 30 white rhinos 2,000-miles from South Africa to their new home in Akagera National Park in a Boeing 747.

According to NPR, animal rights advocates hope the animals will be able to breed in the new environment, where they will be safe from poachers.

An adult white rhino can weigh about 2 tons.
An adult white rhino can weigh about 2 tons.

“Introductions to safe, intact wild landscapes are vital for the future of vulnerable species like white rhino, which are under considerable human-induced pressures,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of the non-profit conservation organization African Parks.

The entire trip took about 40 hours, a challenge considering the cargo was 30 2-ton rhinos.

“We had to tranquilize them to reduce their stress, which is itself risky, and monitor them,” Peter Fearnhead, African Parks’ CEO, told Aljazeera.

White rhinos have been driven toward extinction by illegal poaching.
White rhinos have been driven toward extinction by illegal poaching.

The rhinos were fitted with tracking transmitters so they can be monitored as they roam the Akagera National Park.

“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,” said Ariella Kageruka, the Rwanda Development Board’s acting chief tourism officer in the report.

30 white rhinos were transported from South Africa to their new home, safe from poachers.
30 white rhinos were transported from South Africa to their new home, safe from poachers.

The rhinos were airlifted from the andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, which had previously been managing and growing its rhino population for more than 30 years. The mission was carried out by by African Parks, the Rwanda Development Board and andBeyond and funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

As Aljazeera reports, the world rhino population has been decimated by poachers since the 1970s as hunters scrambled for their highly valued horns. According to World Wild Life, the species was assumed to be extinct in the late ’90s but a small population of around 100 rhinos survived, classifying them as “near threatened.”

White rhinos still face great threats.
White rhinos still face great threats from poachers.

With only about 18,000 white rhinos in existence, the animals are now categorized as “near threatened” by the World Wildlife Fund.

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