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A new sanctuary for the Sumatran rhino is delayed amid COVID-19 measures (Indonesia)

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Junaidi Hanafiah, Mongabay| May 27, 2020

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BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA: A much-anticipated plan to establish a new rhino-breeding sanctuary in northern Sumatra is one of many that has been put on hold in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed facility is a top priority for Indonesia’s conservation plan to rescue the world’s last remaining Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) through a network of captive-breeding facilities. One already exists in southern Sumatra, inside Way Kambas National Park, and authorities planned another for a forest area in the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh province, in the island’s north, expected to be completed by 2021.

For the past year, officials and experts — from the environment ministry, local government, academia and NGOs — have been working on the permits, feasibility and environmental studies, and developing the designs, including the detailed engineering design (DED).

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, the DED would’ve been done in March 2020,” said Dedi Yansyah, the wildlife protection coordinator at the Leuser Conservation Forum, one of the NGOs involved in the plan.

Indonesia confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 in early March. Since then, the country has recorded the second-highest number of deaths from the disease in East Asia (behind only China­), even amid widespread measures to curb the spread of the virus, including stay-at-home orders and grounding of flights.

Harapan, a captive male Sumatran rhino, with a keeper at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Rahmadi Rahmad/Mongabay Indonesia.

The planned rhino sanctuary in Leuser will cover 100 hectares (250 acres) of an ecosystem that’s also the only place on Earth that’s home to rhinos, tigers, orangutans and elephants. Agus Irianto, the head of the Aceh provincial conservation agency (BKSDA), said the area in question is a mosaic of logging forest, oil palm concession, and non-forest land. He said permits to acquire the logging forest and non-forest area were nearly completed; the agency is also in discussions with the oil palm concession holder to acquire that land.

“Certainly, [COVID-19] has affected the activities and timeline that were previously arranged,” Agus said.

An environment ministry official said an initial batch of at least five rhinos would be captured from the wild in Aceh and moved to the sanctuary to kick off the captive-breeding program there. The Leuser Ecosystem is touted by experts as the most promising habitat for wild rhinos because it’s believed to have the largest population of the species, at about 12 individuals. (Estimates for the Sumatran rhino’s total population range from 30 to 80.) But conservationists still understand little about the mountainous area, and the incidence of poaching there is believed to be higher than elsewhere.

Indonesia’s captive-breeding program currently has eight Sumatran rhinos in two sanctuaries: seven Way Kambas National Park, and one in the Kelian forest, in Indonesian Borneo.

Rhino experts around the world decided only in 2017 that the captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos, from both Sumatra and Borneo, was the only viable option to save the species, which is now found only in Indonesia after the death of Malaysia’s last captive rhino. The species once ranged across Southeast Asia, from the Himalayas in Bhutan and India, to southern China and down the Malay Peninsula. But it has been decimated by a series of factors, from poaching to habitat loss and, more recently, insufficient births.

Harapan, a captive male Sumatran rhino, at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Junaidi Hanafi/Mongabay Indonesia.

The initiative agreed to in 2017 mirrors a similar effort in the 1980s to capture Sumatran rhinos for breeding. That program, however, collapsed a decade later after more than half of the animals died without any calves being born. But a string of successful captive births in both the United States and Indonesia, and a growing consensus that the species will go extinct without intervention, have laid the groundwork for the latest captive-breeding effort.

Manny, Akagera’s black rhino dies (Rwanda)

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Hudson Kuteesa, The New Times | April 22, 2020

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One of the five black rhinos brought to Akagera National Park last year from Europe has died.

The five rhinos: three females and 2 males were brought to Akagera National Park in June last year from the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.

The dead rhino, Manny, was the elder of the two males in the group.

Original photo as published by The New Times. One of the five rhinos translocated to Rwanda from European zoos at Akagera National Park last year.

Manny, along with the other two: Jasmine and Jasiri were born in Safari Park Dvur Kralove, Czech Republic.

According to information from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the rhino died on the 10th of February, and preliminary reports suggest a tract disorder, although the final cause of death has not been determined yet.

“We can confirm that the rhino was not poached. The evidence suggests a digestive tract disorder, but a final cause of death has not yet been concluded. We are awaiting further laboratory results to provide additional clarity, but with major restrictions in place globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that we will receive these results soon,” read the statement from EAZA.

According to EAZA, the rhino was being closely monitored on a daily basis by a specialist tracking team and was being provided supplementary feed to support its continued adjustment.

“After detecting a sudden deterioration in his health and feeding behaviour, park management immediately consulted with veterinarians, but he, unfortunately, succumbed before a veterinary intervention could be made.”

EAZA said that the four remaining animals have continued to be monitored intensively and are reported in good health.

Estimates show that there are over 5000 black rhinos left and the latest translocation is seen as a major step towards their conservation and growth.

However, although translocations are an essential tool to boost species populations in the wild, it also naturally involves a degree of risk as animals adapt to novel conditions in their new environments.

To ensure the wellbeing of the rhinos relocated to Rwanda, EAZA says every precaution was taken throughout the translocation process and followed thorough planning by highly experienced veterinary, translocation and park management teams, in line with International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) guidelines.

Logistics is so much more than just delivering the mundane

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The Handy Shipping Guide | February 24, 2020

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RWANDA: Logistics is often far more than simply shipping commodities around the globe and a report on the work done by aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn, and its subsidiary company Intradco Animal Transport, to save the future of the black rhino in Rwanda in the past few years, deserves a mention.

We have reported previously on movements of the rare species but two missions by the company, now part of the Avia Solutions Group, have brought the black rhino back to Rwanda after it effectively disappeared over a decade ago. The Akagera Park in Rwanda was once home to 50 black rhinos in the 1970s. However, wide-spread poaching in the country saw the ultimate extinction of the mammal in the park by 2007.

Original photo as published by Handy Shipping Guide.

The rhino is considered a great symbol of Africa, but the rhino horn trade has threatened its survival. Now, there are said to be only 5,000 black rhinos in the world, and just 1,000 of those are the critically endangered Eastern black rhino. Security has been enhanced at the Akagera Park since 2010 and, now that this has been tightened after securing funding from the Howard Buffett Foundation, the park has been able to start reintroducing the Eastern black rhino.

This is the second species the park has managed to successfully return to its native haunts. In 2015, it also reintroduced lions which hadn’t been seen at the park for 15 years. Some of the security measures the park has put into place to protect its new animals include helicopter air surveillance, canine anti-poaching units and expert rhino protection and tracking teams.

Chapman Freeborn’s original involvement was in 2017 and involved transporting 19 black rhinos from Johannesburg to Kigali, Rwanda. Two Etihad Boeing 777 freighters were chartered to transport the rhinos. After arriving at their destination, they were loaded into trucks and a police escort was provided to ensure they reached the park safely.

Travelling as two groups of 10 and 9 respectively the animals had two attendants and three vets accompanying them throughout the journey and to control their temperature on the flight. The mission to transport the rhinos to the park took two weeks and was an incredibly complex process. The team at Intradco took a year to plan the move alongside Etihad Cargo. They ensured all of the permits were in place and they also accompanied the rhinos on the flights to their final destination.

The success of this first transport led to it being awarded the ‘Best Charter Logistics Project’ at that year’s Freighters World Conference Awards and led to a follow up shipment last year which saw five black rhinos travelling a full 3,700 miles from a zoo in the Czech Republic to the Akagera Park, meaning it now houses 24 rhinos and harbouring the hope that the species will once again be able to thrive in Rwanda.

Without the help of freight services, and projects such as these, it wouldn’t be possible to reintroduce these beautiful animals back where they belong and try and ensure the continuation of an entire species. It highlights just how far animal transportation services have come and a changing attitude to preserving the world we all live in.

 

Botswana dehorns its wild rhinos to save them from poachers’ slaughter

By Antipoaching, Relocation No Comments
Jane Flanagan, The Times | January 31, 2020

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Once Africa’s safest haven for wildlife, is to dehorn its entire population of wild rhinoceroses in a desperate bid to spare them from slaughter by poachers.

The radical plan has been settled on by wildlife officials who fear that the species will soon be locally extinct for the third time in the country’s history if poaching trends continue. The contentious scheme was made public, apparently in error, in a radio interview by Philda Kereng, the environment minister.

Giving advance notice about dehorning can panic poachers to try to reach the rhinos first, so rangers and vets are now scrambling to track, sedate and dehorn the most vulnerable animals in killing hotspots.

Original photo as published by The Times: At least 30 of Botswana’s dwindling rhino numbers have been slaughtered in the past year — after being relocated to the country to keep them safe from slaughter in South Africa. BARCROFT MEDIA

Map Ives, Botswana’s leading rhino expert, is helping to implement the government’s emergency plan. “I agree with the strategy, but not wholeheartedly,” he told The Times. “The onslaught is severe and we are up against very organised, dangerous professional operatives with all the resources and weapons they need.”

His organisation, Rhino Conservation Botswana, has Prince Harry as its patron, and he himself played a part in re-introducing rhino to the southern African state two decades ago.

Between 2007 and 2017 only six rhinos were killed for their horns but in the past year the government has confirmed that about 30 black and white rhinos have been lost from a population of approximately 300 — and some conservationists claim that the actual death toll is far higher. The country’s critically endangered black rhino population is now thought to be unsustainable.

“For those emotionally involved in this project, the last year has been horrific,” Mr Ives said.

Rhino horns sell for £55,000 a kilogram on the black market in Asia, where they are used as status symbols and in medicinal remedies.

Removing them to save the animals is an expensive and complex undertaking, and is not a permanent solution. The operation is done by chainsaw, leaving a small stump that grows back to a sizeable horn within three or four years, putting the rhinos at risk once more. There are also fears that to make up for lost income poaching gangs might return to targeting elephants.

Those who back the strategy say it will buy the authorities time to improve their intelligence on the poaching syndicates, which have decimated rhino numbers in neighbouring countries. South Africa has lost more than 7,000 rhinos in the past decade.

Ironically, most of those killed in Botswana had been sent there from the Kruger Park for “safekeeping” in the Okavango Delta, a Unesco world heritage site now in danger of losing its reputation as Africa’s “last Eden”.

At the same time as they are dehorned rhinos will be fitted with tracking devices. The project is expected to cost £1,000 per animal.

Being without a horn is no guarantee of safety: poachers often kill the rhino anyway so that they do not have to track it again. Most slaughter has taken place in the Okavango Delta in the northwest of the country. The delta is the hub of Botswana’s luxury tourism industry and rhinos were reintroduced to it in recent years after being poached out of the area.

A stay at the exclusive Mombo Camp on Chief’s Island, where several rhino carcasses have been found, their faces gouged out for their horns, can cost up to £3,000 a night.

Erik Verreynne, a leading wildlife vet, said that Botswana’s rhinos were treated “according to the needs of the tourism industry and not the needs of rhino conservation”. Rather than being left in remote areas close to international borders, like the delta, the rhinos should be relocated to safe, semi-wild sanctuaries “where we can concentrate our defences optimally”.

He added: “They deserve to be protected, and keeping them in high-risk areas for the sake of tourism is against all sound principles. Viewing semi-wild rhino in Botswana is better than viewing no rhino at all.”

 

Five rhinos resettled in Rwanda from Czech zoo

By Conservation, Relocation, Translocation No Comments
Lowvelder | January 5, 2020

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The arrival of the rhinos marks the second translocation to Rwanda after South Africa donated 17 rhinos in 2017, reintroducing the species after it had disappeared for over a decade due to intense poaching.

That initial population has now grown to 20 in the park, which is considered an excellent habitat for the rhinos.

“This unique achievement represents the culmination of an unprecedented international effort to improve the survival prospects of a critically endangered rhino subspecies in the wild,” said Jes Gruner, manager of Akagera National Park.

Original photo as published by The Lowvelder: There are about 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them one of the most critically endangered species in the world. (© AFP | TONY KARUMBA)

“Their arrival also marks an important step in Akagera’s ongoing revitalization and one that underscores the country’s commitment to conservation.”

The rhinos began their journey on Sunday after months of preparation at Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic, according to the Rwanda Development Board.

The two male and three female rhinos — needed to widen the gene pool in the park — will live in enclosed spaces with the aim of increasing their adaptability and survival rate.

There are about 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them one of the most critically endangered species in the world.

Rwanda also reintroduced lions — from South Africa in 2015 — after they had disappeared from the country for about 15 years.

“Just under a decade of management with improved law enforcement and strong community and economic development initiatives has seen poaching practically eliminated, key species including lion and rhino returned, significant support fostered for conservation, and vibrant tourism leading to Akagera being 80 percent self-financing,” read a statement from African Parks which assisted the translocation.

Rwanda received 1.3 million visitor arrivals in 2017 and tourism is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner, government statistics show.

 

British troops help move endangered black rhinos to new home away from poachers

By Conservation, Gaming, Illegal trade, Relocation No Comments
James Hockaday, Metro | Dec 26, 2019

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Vulnerable black rhinos have been relocated away from the eyes of hunters with the assistance of British soldiers.

Troops from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles teamed up with conservationists, training rangers at Malawi’s Liwonde National Park to improve their patrols in a bid to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade. Only 5,500 black rhinos live in the wild today because hunters have decimated their numbers.

Their horns are removed and sold on to the Far East, where they are ground down and turned into ‘medicine’, aphrodisiacs, or jewellery. Around the end of their three-month assignment, the Gurkhas helped with one of the largest international rhino re-location to date.

Original photo as published by Metro: Only 5,500 black rhinos live in the wild as hunters decimate their numbers. (Picture: PA)

Conservation group African Parks say 17 of the 1.4 tonne animals were hauled by air and road from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and taken to a new home in Malawi. Major Jez England, officer commanding the British Army Counter-Poaching Team in Liwonde said the operation had been ‘hugely successful’.

He added: ‘Not only do we share skills with the rangers, improving their efficiency and ability to patrol larger areas, but it also provides a unique opportunity for our soldiers to train in a challenging environment. ‘Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget.’

So far, the army has helped train 200 rangers in the country and no high-value species have been poached in Liwonde since 2017.

The project was led by African Parks in conjunction with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It aims to boost the rhino population in the region and preserve this critically endangered species for the next generation. Since their release, African Parks is continuing to monitor the animals as they settle in to their new home.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest transnational crime behind drugs, arms and human trafficking and can have hugely destabilising consequences.

He added: ‘With this deployment, our armed forces have once again demonstrated their versatility and value by contributing to the conservation work taking place in Malawi.

‘Working with local communities, host governments and wildlife groups is key to our approach, we want to see sustainable, community-led solutions that help promote security and stability for both the people and wildlife of Africa.’

The counter-poaching ranger partnering programme is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and delivered by the British Army.

The UK Government has committed over £36 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2021. Part of this is to help support transboundary work to allow animals to move more safely between areas and across national borders.

Bid to boost tourism: Rhinos to be re-introduced in Uttarakhand (India)

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Lalmani Verma, The Indian Express | December 19, 2019

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The Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board has cleared a proposal by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to introduce rhinoceroses in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) to boost tourism and revive the habits of species that survive on low-height grass.

According to officials, around 10 rhinos will be brought in CTR in the first phase and subsequently, 10 more would be added.

State Chief Wildlife Warden Rajiv Bhartari said that a proposal will be sent to the Cente soon in this regard to transport rhinos from either Assam or West Bengal or both. The capture and translocation are likely to cost about Rs 15 lakh per individual animal.

Experts claim that protecting these rhinos from poaching will be the only challenge for the state’s forest department staff after the move.

They added that the geographical terrain and environmental conditions in CTR are suitable for rhinos. The ideal sites chosen in Corbett are valley habitats bounded on either side by the lower Himalayas (north), Shivalik Hills (south) and the Ramganga Reservoir (east), which would also act as natural barriers to rhino movement outside these area, thereby minimising conflict with people.

Original photo as published by Yahoo News / The Indian Express: Uttarakhand, Uttarakhand tourism, Rhinos in Uttarakhand, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rhinos in Corbett Tiger Reserve, Wildlife Institute of India.

WII Dean YV Jhala said rhinos were once found in the Terai grassland in the state and adjoining areas but were wiped out by poaching. The horn of a rhino is believed to be an aphrodisiac. “Corbett is well protected and hence the rhinos will safely survive there,” Jhala said.

Experts say that each of the founding population animals would be fitted with a GPS radio-collar. A team of researchers would be allocated for monitoring their ranging patterns, foraging habits, demography and habitat use. The Forest Department would be responsible for the safety of these re-introduced rhinos. Researchers will share data with the department’s staff.

“There are less challenges in re-introduction of rhinos. The animals only have to be brought her. Food and water are available,” Jhala said.

According to wildlife experts, rhinos reduce the size of elephant grass by eating it. This would mean that species that thrive on lower-height grass — Hog Deer, Cheetal, Sambar and Swamp Deer, among others — would also be encouraged.

According to WII experts, the rhino’s range was once continuous across the flood plains of the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaputra, but today, it is limited to small fragmented pockets in India and Nepal as a result of anthropogenic pressures. Re-introduction into habitats in its historic range would not only create safety-net populations for the species but also restore their ecological role in these faunally-degraded habitats, they said.

“The majority of the decline in rhino population in the state of Assam occurred during the period of political unrest. Similar trends in population decline were observed in Nepal during the Maoist movement. Uttarakhand has no such history of political instability and thus would be an ideal site for reintroduction,” the WII proposal reads.

 

All Singita Grumeti’s received black rhino cope with ecosystem (Tanzania)

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Edward Qorro, The Daily News | December 12, 2019

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The once critically endangered Rhinos relocated from a South African game farm to Singita Grumeti ecosystem in September, this year are now freely roaming in their new habitat.

The black rhinos, which include females Eastern Black Rhino and young bulls, according to a recent update by the Grumeti Fund’s Communications Department are said to have been fitted with transmitters, which would enable wildlife experts and vets from the Grumeti Fund (GF) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, to track and record their locations in groups or individually on a daily basis.

“Using Vulcan’s Earth Ranger, a data visualisation and analysis software for protected area management, the location of the rhino is captured daily and logged into this system, it allows the teams to coordinate the best possible security and monitor the animals,” said Wesley Gold, the Grumeti Fund’s Anti-Poaching Manager.

Original photo as published by Daily News.

“All the rhino received the state-of-the-art transmitters which feed into the system in real time. This very new technology gives management the ability to have eyes on them at all times,” further said Mr Gold. The newly released Rhinos are now occupying a similar range as the first three, and for the first time will make their territories within the Singita Grumeti concession.

The established breeding nucleus will ideally start to drive the growth of the local population and genetic diversification, as the Rhino would start to move between territories and breed with other satellite populations in the Serengeti–Mara ecosystem.

The GF in its further update indicate that the ecological undertaking require years of planning, and a multitude of partnerships, high costs, lots of infrastructure, security and technology developments to make it a reality.

According to the GF, a much needed boundary road was constructed last year and is now being hedged with a rhino fence, which extends across a critical portion of the boundary to also keep off people from coming into contact with the animals, a move seen as likely to reduce human wildlife conflict in the ecosystem.

Expounding, he said that several monitoring teams have been deployed to check on the Rhinos daily, adding that the imminent arrival of an airplane will further boost the rhinos’ protection strategy.

“Working with rhino is complicated and there are lots of moving parts. With the recent rhino release, two critical elements of this project stand out: Security and partnerships. “We are extremely fortunate to have great support from Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) and our other government partners, championed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, as well as an experienced and multi-faceted law enforcement department that combines critical boots on the ground knowledge with state-of-the- art conservation technologies, which are crucial to effectively monitor and protect rhino,” said Mr Stephen Cunliffe, GF’s Executive Director.

According to Mr Cunliffe this law enforcement component includes an intelligence unit, a special operations group, a canine unit, mobile patrol, rhino monitoring teams, observation posts, scouts stationed in the bush, and an aerial support team to name a few.

There are three species of black rhino in Africa: eastern black rhino, southern black rhino and desert black rhino.

Lions, rhinos touted for Lake Zone parks (Tanzania)

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IPP Media | December 2, 2019

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Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) authorities intend to introduce white rhinoceros, gorillas, monkeys, lions and other species into the recently created protected areas in the Lake Zone.

Speaking here at the inauguration of Rumanyika Game Reserve in Karagwe district and Ibanda Game Reserve in Kyerwa district both in Kagera Region, TANAPA Conservation Commissioner Dr Allan Kijazi said late last week that the animals will be introduced to Burigi-Chato National Park as well as Rumanyika Game Reserve.

However, he said TANAPA will first conduct a survey to understand location where either of the species would have better chances of surviving and thriving.

Original image as published by IPP Media: Tanapa Conservation Commissioner, Dr Allan Kijazi.

Officials of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism attended the inaugural event at Murongo ward in Kyerwa District.

Dr Kijazi thanked Kagera residents and their leaders for mutual cooperation in safeguarding animal resources and urging them to continue with tireless efforts to make animals thrive in the newly created conservation areas.

The minister, Dr Hamis Kigwangala, warned poachers and hackers in the national parks and game reserves to stop immediately that rough business, lest they face more than 30 years imprisonment.

“We are tracing poachers and hackers of animals at every corner, some of whom kill our animals for meat, and actually their days are numbered, as now we have fewer areas to cover and all our strength is directed there, Serengeti zone being one,” he declared.

Dr Kigwangala said in the near future the wildlife bodies will set up special wild animal slaughterhouses for bush meat enthusiasts. “I am not in a position to see our country’s wealth devastated by rogues, thus I’ll effectively empower anti-poaching military units to overpower the poachers whenever they might be,” he emphasized.

The rate of killing elephants had sharply dropped and rhino killings are largely unnoticeable, being the effects of curbing the unlawful business. The abundance of wildlife found in Rumanyika and Ibanda game reserves includes elephants, statungas, giraffes, warthogs, hippopotamuses and a wide variety of birds. `

 

Plateau to acquire rhinos from Kenya (Nigeria)

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Chuks Nwanne, The Guardian Nigeria | November 16, 2019

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The efforts to improve the tourism sector in Plateau State have received a boost recently, as the State Governor, Simon Lalong has concluded plan to acquire two Rhinos from Kenya to increase the number of animals in the Jos Wild Life Park.

Original photo as published by The Guardian Saturday Magazine. (Source: Pixabay)

It would be recalled that the Governor had been on a peer review tour of Kenya in the last one week to seek areas of collaborations in agriculture, tourism, entertainment, human capital development as well as tea and flower production.

Speaking with the Kenyan Deputy President, William Ruto in Nairobi, Lalong, according to a statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Makut Macham intimated the Deputy President that he has visited several counties and discussed opportunities in agriculture, tourism, entertainment, tea, and flower production, human capital development among others.

The Governor however made a special appeal to Deputy President Ruto to facilitate the acquisition of two Rhinos, explaining that the State wants to acquire them in line with the request of the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army situated in Rukuba, near Jos which has Rhino as its symbol.