Malawi has received 17 black rhinos from South Africa under a program to replenish the species that temporarily died out in the Southern African country in the 1980s.
African Parks, a charity headed by Britain’s Prince Harry, said the operation began with an eight-hour drive from South Africa’s Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife game reserve. The rhinos then were released into Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi, where British troops are training anti-poaching rangers.
“This is one of the largest international black rhino translocations to date,” said a statement by Peter Fearnhead of African Parks, which rehabilitates and manages about a dozen parks in 10 countries.
The operation was carried out in conjunction with World Wildlife Fund South Africa and the Malawian and South African governments.
“Our shared vision is to bolster Malawi’s existing rhino populations and to support regional efforts to conserve this critically endangered species,” Fearnhead said.
Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi’s director of wildlife and parks, said the initiative would bolster the rhino population, which died out in Malawi in 1981 before the reintroduction of four rhinos in 1993.
Malawian authorities have refused to state the current rhino population, citing security reasons.
Fearnhead said the newly introduced rhinos would be fitted with GPS sensors and that the animals would be tracked by aerial surveillance and daily ranger patrols.
Once plentiful across Sub-Saharan Africa, black rhinos first suffered from hunting by European settlers. Later, poachers largely wiped them out; only 2,475 were recorded in 1993, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Conservation efforts have since brought the population back up to about 5,000.