In bizarre role reversal, US zoo donates rhino to Tanzania

19Sep 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
Financial Times
In bizarre role reversal, US zoo donates rhino to Tanzania

BLACK rhinos are native to Africa, but the giant mammals have become so critically endangered in the continent due to poaching for their horns, a zoo in the United States has decided to donate one male rhino to Tanzania to encourage breeding among the species.

Usually, live animals are exported from Tanzania and other African countries to zoos in the United States, Europe and Asia. But an eastern black rhino born and bred in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the United States has been donated to Tanzania as part of an ongoing effort to save the species from extinction.

The eight-year-old animal named Eric was gifted by the zoo to Tanzania in an attempt to promote breeding in the greater Serengeti ecosystem. Eric’s new home will be the 350,000-acre Singita Grumeti, a private concession which is working with the Tanzanian Wildlife Management Authority and Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute to try to increase the local population of black rhinos.

“There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for what Eric’s arrival means for rhino conservation in Tanzania,” said Stephen Cunliffe, executive director of the Singita Grumeti Fund. “He will be slowly acclimated to his new surroundings and we hope within 12 to 18 months he will be a wild, free-ranging black rhino.”

Eric, who was born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2010, has undergone a months-long preparation programme to get him ready for his move. Staff spent time getting the 2,550-pound (1.2-tonne) rhino used to his travel crate as well as slowly altering his diet to the kind of leaves that he will be eating in Tanzania. There, the plan is to place him into a protected 682-acre zone alongside a female rhino, Laikipia, with whom it is hoped he will mate.

Steve Metzler, San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, said the move “could have not gone any better”, adding: “He was eating well along the journey and he has arrived safely and settled in very quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

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