History was just over five years ago as five endangered Eastern Black Rhino were moved from South Africa back to their rightful home in East Africa, after the species was driven to extinction locally by poaching in the previous century.
The animals arrived at Singita Grumeti Reserve in the Serengeti National Park in what was named the most ambitious wildlife relocation in East Africa in over 50 years. Three female and two male Eastern Black Rhinoceroses were transported in a huge Hercules C-130 aircraft from the conservancy that had been their home; the first of 32 rhinos initially planned to be reintroduced to their native Tanzanian environment from the surviving South African population. The efforts are crucial for the survival of the species and also the wider ecosystems in which they reside.
While the has been progress in the initiative, there have been inevitable set backs. The original bull rhino, Limpopo, was killed by an elephant and his replacement, the older bull John, sadly died a little while after his relocation in 2015. He was unfortunately past his best reproductive age when he arrived in Tanzania but had been a busy chap previously in South Africa and fathered many calves. He spend his last days happily in the rhino sanctuary with his female companion Laikipia, who remains in the reserve.
The priority now is for more rhino to be reintroduced, as with the continual threat of poaching and a small rhino population the risk is great and the relocation must be accelerated. There are plans for another relocation from South Africa to bring as many as five more (mostly female) rhino to join Laikipia. World Rhino Day in 2016 helped to highlight the plight of the elephants and their importance and was a great success in terms of raising awareness.
Land management projects in North Africa and Tanzania are helping to protect and grow the local rhino population, while also replenishing the environment of the Serengeti's western corridor and bringing the Great Migration back to previously damaged regions.
The battle to save eastern black rhinos is immediate and great, and as such any contributions that the tourism and Tanzanian safari industry can make towards local conservation is vital and greatly valued by all working with the rhino.
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