Plan to ex­port six black rhino from South Africa to Chad

The Witness - - NEWS -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — South Africa will re­lo­cate six en­dan­gered black rhi­nos to Chad where the an­i­mal was hunted to lo­cal ex­tinc­tion decades ago, the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry in Pre­to­ria said.

If the ex­per­i­ment is suc­cess­ful, the cen­tral African na­tion will host the most northerly wild pop­u­la­tion of black rhi­nos in Africa. This could pave the way for the species to be rein­tro­duced to other parts of its for­mer con­ti­nen­tal range from which it was ex­ter­mi­nated due to poach­ing.

“A team of ex­perts from South Africa will visit Chad to as­sess the habi­tat, se­cu­rity and man­age­ment suit­abil­ity and associated eco­log­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters as well as in­fras­truc­tural readi­ness prior to the translo­ca­tion,” South Africa’s en­vi­ron­ment min­istry said in a state­ment.

A date for the re­lo­ca­tion has not been set yet. The rhi­nos’ des­ti­na­tion will be Zak­ouma Na­tional Park in the south­east of Chad, an im­pov­er­ished oil­pro­ducer. Found just south of the Sa­hara Desert, Zak­ouma is home to a re­cov­er­ing ele­phant pop­u­la­tion of sev­eral hun­dred and is man­aged by the African Parks Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tion NGO.

Africa has two rhino species of which the white rhino is the larger and more nu­mer­ous. The black rhino is famed for its ornery dis­po­si­tion and is far more apt to charge at any per­ceived threat.

Black rhi­nos have not roamed Chad since the early 1970s and the species has been elim­i­nated from much of its orig­i­nal range in the face of re­lent­less poach­ing.

The move comes against the back­drop of an un­fold­ing rhino poach­ing cri­sis in South Africa, home to most of the world’s pop­u­la­tion of the bulky pachy­derms.

The num­ber of rhi­nos poached for their horns in South Africa fell 10% in 2016 to 1 054, the sec­ond straight year of de­cline ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data, but con­ser­va­tion­ists say the lev­els re­main alarm­ing.

Rhino poach­ing rates in South Africa had surged from 83 in 2008 to a record 1 215 in 2014 to meet red­hot de­mand in newly­af­flu­ent Asian coun­tries such as Viet­nam, where the horn is prized as a key in­gre­di­ent in tra­di­tional medicines.

South Africa has more than 80% of the world’s rhino pop­u­la­tion with about 18 000 white rhi­nos and close to 2 000 black rhi­nos, which is why it has been at the front­line of the horn poach­ing cri­sis.

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