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Akagera National Park Archives - Rhino Review

Manny, Akagera’s black rhino dies (Rwanda)

By Conservation, Relocation No Comments
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.

Akagera Park records 25% revenue growth (Rwanda)

By Conservation, Translocation No Comments
Collins Mwai, New Times | January 23, 2020

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Akagera National Park received more than 49,000 visitors and generated $2.5 million in park revenue last year (2019), a 25 per cent increase compared to 2018.

The park’s management said that the revenues made last year account for about 90 per cent of their annual budget.

The number of visitors to the park has grown in recent years since the 2010 signing of a private public partnership agreement African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation managing 10 national parks and protected areas in seven African countries, took over its management.

Original photo as published by The New Times: Zebras in Akagera National Park. (Photos by Emmanuel Kwizera)

Of the revenue, $525,000 was spent in directly contributing to the local community through salaries of local staff and local purchases in 2019.

Sarah Hall, the Tourism and Marketing Manager at Akagera National Park, told The New Times that they have seen growth in recent years following the public private partnership.

Of the visitors to the park, 48 per cent were Rwandan citizens.

Hall said that there has been growth in interest in the park in recent years while aerial counts show an increase in number of animals in the park.

The aerial census for 2019 has shown an increase in overall animal population with a total of 13,500 animals recorded. This is up from 12,000 counted in 2017.

Last year, the park received five eastern black rhinos from a zoo in Czech Republic further growing interest in the park.

The return of rhinos to the park gave it the ‘Big 5’ status; having lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and elephant.

Before the reintroduction of the rhinos, the park had in 2015 re-introduced lions in Akagera National Park in 2015 after they were translocated from South Africa.

Hall said that they expected to see continued growth in visitors and revenue in the course of the year as Akagera Game Lodge ran by Mantis Group is in the process of renovation.

Hall added that with the road from Kabarondo to the park now tarmacked, they hope to have easier access to the part and consequently more guests.

The park’s peak seasons like most of Rwanda’s tourism facilities are twice annually; July-August and December–January.

In regards to visitor trends, Hall said that there has been an increase in visitors from Francophone countries.

The continued growth and improvement of the park Hall said ought to mean more options and opportunity for local tourism companies as they now have ‘more to sell’ to clients.

African Parks’ most hopeful conservation news in 2019

By Conservation, Land conservation, Science and technology No Comments
African Parks / PR Newswire | December 18, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG: Successful conservation interventions are critical, now more than ever, to improve the trajectory of the planet’s biodiversity and the state of its ecosystems, as highlighted in the IPBES global biodiversity assessment published this year. Well managed protected areas are vital anchors of sanctuary, stability and opportunity for millions of people and countless species.

With the largest and most ecologically diverse portfolio of parks under management by any one organisation across Africa, African Parks’ goal is to realize the ecological, social and economic value of these landscapes, preserving ecological functions, delivering clean air, healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, food security, and better health for millions of people.

Here is some of their most hopeful news from 2019:

  • Zimbabwe’s exceptional Matusadona National Park which abuts Lake Kariba became the 16th park to join African Parks’ management portfolio. Through partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, they will fully restore the park as a leading wildlife sanctuary for the region.
  • One of history’s largest international black rhino translocations was concluded with the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, using source populations in South Africa to boost Malawi’s population to create a valuable range state for the critically endangered species.
  • The largest ever transport of rhinos from Europe to Africa was undertaken, releasing five Eastern black rhinos, bred successfully by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ex Situ Programme, into Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, helping to build a sustainable wild population of this subspecies numbering only around 1,000 in Africa.
  • Cheetahs were introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi to form a crucial founder population and help grow the range of the vulnerable big cat; and almost 200 buffalo were released into Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands to restock one of the continent’s greatest wetland landscapes.
  • 100 years of conservation was celebrated with the Barotse Royal Establishment and Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Liuwa Plain National Park with the official opening of the world class King Lewanika Lodge. The event was testament to their 16-year partnership to restore the ecosystem, promote livelihoods development, provide employment, education, and support to thousands of people, while seeing the park emerge as one of the world’s top travel destinations hailed by The New York Times and TIME Magazine.
  • TIME Magazine featured Chad’s Zakouma National Park on its list of World’s Greatest Places 2019, and Akagera National Park in Rwanda continued to see remarkable strides in tourism development, with Wilderness Safaris opening the gorgeous luxury tented Magashi Camp.
  • With several partners they have installed the most advanced technology available, from Vulcan’s EarthRanger, ESRI, Smart Parks, and others, to improve real-time monitoring of wildlife and to support law enforcement within the parks.

These advancements are only possible because of the partnerships with national governments who entrust African Parks with managing their natural heritage. Their shared vision of a future for people and wildlife is realised through the generous funding received from a global community of committed supporters, including anchor donors: Acacia Conservation Fund (ACF), Adessium Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Dutch Postcode Lottery, European Union, Fondation des Savanes Ouest-Africaines (FSOA), Fondation Segré, Government of Benin, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, MF Jebsen Conservation Foundation, National Geographic Society, Oppenheimer Philanthropies, People’s Postcode Lottery, Save the Elephants and Wildlife Conservation Network’s Elephant Crisis Fund, Stichting Natura Africae, The Walton Family Foundation, The Wildcat Foundation, The Wyss Foundation, WWF-the Netherlands, WWF-Belgium, UK Aid, U.S. Department of State and USAID.

Overall, these gains are only possible because of the myriad support received, from events to charitable auctions and races, recommendations to friends, travel to the parks, bequests and helping to tell the story of the urgency of the conservation work, and to generous board members in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.S. and South Africa.

Source: African Parks

Related links: www.africanparks.org

 

black rhino

Europe-bred rhinos join South African cousins to repopulate Rwanda park

By Relocation No Comments

Jim Tan, Mongabay | August 14, 2019

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Five eastern black rhinos translocated from European zoos to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park have successfully completed an initial period of acclimatization and been moved into larger, 1-hectare (2.5-acre) enclosures. They will eventually be released into the wider park, joining a group brought over from South Africa in 2017, the first of these critically endangered species to roam in Rwanda since 2005.

Since the 1970s, rhino populations have been decimated by a poaching epidemic driven by demand for rhino horn, with a 96 percent decline in the number of black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) from 70,000 to just 2,410 between 1970 and 1995. The eastern black rhino (D. b. michaeli), originally ranging across East Africa, from southern Sudan to northern Tanzania, is the most endangered of the three black rhino subspecies. There are fewer than 1,000 wild individuals left in small isolated populations scattered across Tanzania and Kenya.

In a partnership between the government of Rwanda, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and African Parks, an international NGO, five rhinos from EAZA’s rhino-breeding program completed an arduous 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) journey from Europe to their new home in Akagera National Park in Rwanda.

black rhino

Original photo as published by Mongabay.com: The rhinos were initially confined in a release boma before being released into a wider enclosure to allow easy monitoring whilst they adapt to their new environment and diet. Photo: Scott Ramsay

This is the second attempt to establish a population of eastern black rhinos. Rhinos were brought into the park in the 1950s from neighboring Tanzania, growing to a population of more than 50 by the 1970s, before being wiped out by poaching. The last confirmed sighting was in 2007.

“They’ve settled in really well and they’re taking well to the local, native vegetation,” says Jes Gruner, Akagera’s park manager, of the European-bred rhinos. “We’ll soon be taking the first steps releasing them into a small enclosure around the boma.”

There is an ex situ population of around 90 eastern black rhinos in private reserves in South Africa, grown from nine individuals imported in the 1950s. Eighteen rhinos from this group in South Africa were translocated to Akagera in 2017.

The latest additions from EAZA’s eastern black rhino breeding program will strengthen Rwanda’s fledgling rhino population by diversifying the gene pool.

“We’ve got really important genetic stock that’s going to help bolster genetic populations,” says Mark Pilgrim, CEO of Chester Zoo, who coordinates EAZA’s eastern black rhino breeding program.

EAZA is a membership organization of more than 400 zoos across Europe and the Middle East. One of the conditions of membership is that species that fall under EAZA’s European Endangered species Program (EEP) are managed in a coordinated breeding program across all institutions.

EAZA’s eastern black rhino program began with an original population of around 40 individuals that were brought to Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. Today, EAZA’s carefully managed population of nearly 100 rhinos represents around 10 percent of the entire eastern black rhino population on Earth. Pilgrim says the EAZA population will now be able to provide a few individuals to supplement wild populations every five years.

“We’ve got some very sophisticated software now that I can look at and see which rhinos need to move to ensure we are keeping the genetic population healthy,” he says. “It’s basically a big rhino dating game.”

However, an underlying assumption of the software is that the founding population were unrelated. EAZA are currently conducting research to find out exactly how genetically diverse their population is. Pilgrim says he believes that given the number of different places rhinos were imported from, it is highly likely that they have genes in the population that no longer exist in Africa — and that could be really important for the future of the eastern black rhino.

“The good news is that even with very inbred populations, it doesn’t take too many genetically distinct animals entering the population to make a big difference,” Pilgrim says.

There are challenges for zoo-bred rhinos embarking on a life in the wild. Their digestive systems need time to adapt to their new diet; tsetse flies need to be controlled around their boma until they have developed some resistance to trypanosomiasis; and they must learn how to interact with the other inhabitants of their new home — especially the rhino bulls already in residence.

“The [release] process will be done slowly and monitoring them the entire time,” Gruner says. “It could be a couple of years before they have access to the wider park.”

Conditions for Success

Relocating rhinos is an expensive business. Gruner estimates that the project has cost around $1.5 million over the last two years. Critics of ex situ conservation point out that the programs are often expensive, and the history of reintroductions has produced mixed results.

In the case of the eastern black rhino, though, the hope that ex situ conservation in zoos could provide a genetic “ark” from which to replenish wild populations appears to be bearing fruit. Pilgrim says he believes one of the important differences is the reason for the rhinos’ decline.

“The majority of species are completely at threat because of habitat destruction,” he says. “Until you can remove the reason they’ve become endangered in the first place, reintroduction makes little sense.”

By contrast, rhino numbers have been devastated by poaching, leaving large areas of suitable habitat devoid of rhinos, including the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem that once supported large numbers of black rhinos.

“If we can stop poaching and protect them, then there’s plenty of habitat to go back into,” Pilgrim says. “Being a herbivore and having very few natural predators as adults, if any, that gives [reintroduced rhinos] a great chance.”

Controlling poaching has been a major focus for African Parks since it assumed management of Akagera National Park in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board in 2010.

“Poaching will always be a concern everywhere,” Gruner says. “However, we have hugely reduced bush meat poaching in Akagera over the last decade and put measures in place to ensure the protection of the rhinos.”

The existing population of rhinos imported from South Africa have adapted well and are now starting to reproduce. With the vital injection of fresh genetics from the EAZA breeding program, the future looks bright for the rhinos of Akagera National Park.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that the eastern black rhino was not originally native to Rwanda. In fact D. b. michaeli’s historic range did include Rwanda.