When five rhinos fly 6000km from Czech Republic to Rwanda in the largest ever transport of rhinos from Europe to Africa, there’s a tale to be told. We are still beaming over the recent relocation of five Eastern black rhinos from Safari Park Dvûr KráIové in the Czech Republic to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The CCFA contributed $10,000 towards the logistics of this project, which essentially began years ago, with the vision the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) had to help supplement wild populations in secure parks in Africa. The wildlife selected for these relocations are genetically-robust and have been successfully bred and cared for over the years by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Ex Situ Programme.

With fewer than 5, 000 wild black rhinos and 1000 Eastern black rhinos currently roaming game parks in Africa, as well as a future threatened by poachers gunning to meet the illegal demand for rhino horn, the CCFA believes that support for this type of relocation and rehabilitation will effectively contribute to sustainable wildlife conservation.

Three female and two male black rhinos, ranging between two to nine years old, were chosen from the EAZA EEP. Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Safari Park Dvûr KráIové (Czech Republic); Olmoti comes from Flamingo Land (United Kingdom) and Mandela is from Ree Park Safari (Denmark). The five travel buddies (gathered for relocation in November 2018) took part in sensitisation exercises for months prior to their trip to minimise stress during their journey. Their economy seats were custom-made crates that allowed for them to be fed and watered regularly. The travellers were accompanied by experienced zookeepers from Safari Park Dvûr KráIové as well as veterinarian Dr. Pete Morkel, a world expert in rhino translocations, who oversaw their comfort and well being throughout the trip as well as their introduction to their final destination in Rwanda.

Model and conservation advocate Veronika Varekova, played a key role as a patron assisting with transport costs for the project. The rhinos have been donated to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the governmental body that in partnership with African Parks manages Akagera National Park.

The happy traveller’s accommodation plan included an initial stay in boma enclosures, followed by a stay in larger enclosures in a specially protected area and finally their release into the northern part of the national park where they now roam free.

Both the Rwandan and European counterparts involved in the relocation project believe that the rhinos will thrive in their natural habitat in Akagera, a park where tourists can now visit the African Big Five. This protected environment will also allow for the ongoing study of the five rhinos as well as the existing rhino population as they gradually integrate to contribute to a stable population of black rhinoceros in East Africa.