Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Constantine Kanyasu, said in receiving the increasingly rare animals that the translocation of rhinos from South Africa targeted species that originated from Tanzania in the first place. “They have local DNA, which means we are not bringing alien species,” he stated.Initially supposed to be ten, the consignment of nine rhinos that landed safely at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) is part of Tanzania’s new five-year strategy to replenish the rhino population in all precincts that the endangered mammals previously used to roam locally. So important is the project that President John Magufuli made an early morning phone call to the board chairman of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) Maj Gen Khamis Semfukwe, to follow up on the process of receiving the rhinos.“The president himself is keen on the 2019-2023 rhino replenishing programme which is being executed under a special committee with support from Grumeti Fund,” he stated, noting that through the initiative, the country aims at increasing the number of endangered species in dispatches each year. TAWA will also ensure that the Maswa Game Reserve, a former rhino habitat will be replenished with the mammals in the ongoing strategy, he said.The rhinos landed at KIA three hours after midnight, aboard a Boeing 747 Magma Aviation B747-400BCF christened Senator International, with the freight being manned by Pride of Africa Wildlife Solutions.The deputy minister received the rhinos at a handover ceremony held inside the hangar at KIA and signed papers to that effect with the Executive Director of Grumeti Fund, Stephen Cunliffe.“The rhinos will help boost the number of such mammals within the Serengeti ecosystem,” he said, noting that this was the largest consignment of black rhino yet.
“And many more rhinos will be coming in future,” assured Cunliffe, while the Director of Wildlife, Dr Maurus Msuha insisted that with the current conservation strategy, the country is on the rebound in relation to the wildlife population of key endangered species.Dr Msuha chairs the Rhino Replenishing Committee which also consists of the Commissioner Conservator for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority Dr Freddy Manongi, the Director General for Tanzania National Parks Dr Allan Kijazi, the Director General of TAWA Dr James Wakibara and the head of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Dr Simon Mduma. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof Adolf Mkenda, said it has been discovered that rhinos are also roaming in the vast Selous Game Reserve, part of which has been upgraded to become Nyerere National Park.
The rhinos being returned are descendants of animals that were captured in East Africa in the 1960s and moved to South Africa. This was one among measures to preserve the sub-species during a poaching wave in the 1960s.
These animals have been maintained as an isolated population by South African National Parks (SANParks). For decades various conservationists have recommended that these rhinos be moved back to their home region and allowed to intermingle and interbreed with indigenous rhinos of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya.
The Frankfurt Zoology Society, a key stakeholder in the Serengeti ecosystem, says an estimated 500 to 700 black rhinos roamed the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem alone some 40 years ago before illegal hunting almost drove them to extinction. Around 1977 and 1978 the entire black rhino population in the ecosystem was reduced to only 10 individuals.
The conservation organization says over the past 60 years, Africa’s black rhino population plummeted by more than 90 per cent. As recently as 1970 around 60,000 black rhinos roamed the continent but by 1993 uncontrolled poaching for rhino horn had reduced this number to fewer than 2,300 rhinos, it added.