SIX BLACK RHINO FOR CHAD

They’ll be there on a shared own­er­ship or agreed cus­to­dian ba­sis – with SANParks pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary sup­port

The New Age (Free State) - - FRONT PAGE - TANKISO KOMANE tankisok@the­newage.co.za

PLANS an­nounced ear­lier this year by Chad con­ser­va­tion­ists to rein­tro­duce crit­i­cally en­dan­gered black rhi­nos to Zak­ouma Na­tional Park in Chad, af­ter this rare species was last seen there more than four decades ago, will fi­nally see the light of day. This comes af­ter a deal con­cluded on Septem­ber 29 between En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Edna Molewa and her Chad coun­ter­part Ah­mat Mbodou Ma­hamat.

The move will make Chad the clos­est place to Europe for vis­i­tors to see Africa’s Big Five.

Six black rhino will trans­fer from SA to Chad “on a shared own­er­ship or agreed cus­to­dian ba­sis with SANParks pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary sup­port” Molewa said, as poach­ing fur­ther threat­ens the rhi­noc­eros pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try.

Zak­ouma Na­tional Park is al­ready home to one of Africa’s largest herds of ele­phants, more than 130 lions, thou­sands of buf­falo and an un­known num­ber of leop­ards. The last time a rhino was spot­ted in Zak­ouma, how­ever, was in 1972 and there were none left in the coun­try by 1990.

The western black rhino, the sub­species that used to roam across Chad, Cameroon, the Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Su­dan, was of­fi­cially de­clared in­ac­tive in 2011 af­ter it emerged that tracks re­port­edly dis­cov­ered in Cameroon in 2004 had been faked by wildlife rangers in a bid to save their jobs.

In fact, the last time a rhino was spot­ted in Chad was in 1972 and there were none left in the coun­try by 1990, the of­fi­cial doc­u­ments Chad sub­mit­ted to en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs said.

The an­i­mals should be air­lifted to Chad’s Zak­ouma Na­tional Park “some­time next year. We are look­ing at around March, April or May,” en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs min­istry spokesper­son Albi Modise said.

Black rhino are of­fi­cially listed as crit­i­cally en­dan­gered but are still na­tive to the mainly east­ern and south­ern African coun­tries of An­gola, Kenya, Mozam- bique, Namibia, SA, Tan­za­nia and Zim­babwe. They have been rein­tro­duced to other coun­tries in the re­gion.

There are around 5000 black rhino left in Africa with South Africa’s pop­u­la­tion sit­ting at 1893, the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture said.

SA is also home to about 20 000 white rhino, about 80% of the world­wide pop­u­la­tion but it has suf­fered record poach­ing in re­cent years – from 13 in 2013 to more than a 1 000 killed last year alone.

How­ever, in Fe­bru­ary this year, the Depart­ment for En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs’ poach­ing sta­tis­tics showed a 10.3% de­cline in rhino poach­ing last year, as com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year.

In Africa, poach­ers have killed more than 7100 rhi­nos over the past decade for their horns, which is mainly used in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine but more com­monly now as a sta­tus sym­bol dis­play­ing one’s suc­cess and wealth.

How­ever, in 2011 the Ed­u­ca­tion for Na­ture-Viet­nam (ENV) launched an on­line cam­paign to dis­pel the no­tion that rhino horn is a rem­edy for cancer fol­low­ing a de­nounce­ment by the Reg­is­ter of Chi­nese Herbal Medicine and the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine among oth­ers.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

EN­DAN­GERED: Black rhi­nos are be­ing rein­tro­duced to the Zak­ouma Na­tional Park as part of a scheme to en­hance the sur­vival of the an­i­mals and to of­fer vis­i­tors the rare op­por­tu­nity to see Africa’s Big Five.

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