Pretoria — More than two decades after being brought to South Africa, a group of black rhinos returned home to Tanzania today.
Environmental Affairs Minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, officially handed over five black rhinos to the Tanzanian government.
The five animals were transported by air on a Lockhead Hercules C130 and are among a group of 32 that will eventually be relocated to Tanzania.
Eight rhinos of the eastern Diceros Bicornis Michaeli species, which is not indigenous in South Africa, were imported to the country and kept at the Addo Elephant National Park about 20 years ago.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) later decided to move the animals from Addo Elephant National Park, replacing them with the indigenous Diceros Bicornis minor species.
The animals from Tanzania, which had multiplied to 25, were bought by Thaba Tholo, a private nature reserve in Limpopo for tourism purposes. These rhino then increased in number to 61.
Chief Executive of SANParks, David Mabunda, said that last year Tanzanian Wildlife Authorities approached SANParks asking if was possible to return the Michaeli rhinos to Tanzania as the species had become extinct in its original home range.
SANParks agreed but wildlife authorities from both countries had to wait for the right climate conditions to move the animals.
Mabunda described the relocation of the animals as a “fairytale” ending, adding that an alien species had become a gene pool to restock depleted ranges.
Speaking at the handover in Tanzania, the minister said the transfer of a portion of the rhino population to Grumeti in the Serengeti National Park was a wonderful conservation activity.
“Ideally the entire population should return to East Africa but the excess bulls create numerous challenges for the recipient population. As such, a small nucleus will be kept at Thaba Tholo in the short term,” said Sonjica.
She said she hoped that the remaining animals would be returned to East Africa in the future.
“The historical relationship between South Africa and Tanzania, as well as our bi-national cooperation efforts can only be strengthened by an initiative of this nature. This initiative is in line with African Renaissance as these animals contribute to economic development through tourism and protection of our national capital,” the minister added.