CONSERVATION of rhinos is neither easy nor cheap.
It is a task that requires commitment and millions of dollars.
But for wildlife conservation lovers having rhinos is imperative despite the millions of money required to protect and conserve them.
The critically endangered species is vital for the development of tourism and conservation sectors It is for that reason that the government of Tanzania through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has teamed up with Grumeti Fund to increase the population of rhinos within the Serengeti ecosystem.
The critically endangered species are now being relocated from outside the country under the initiative.
The latest relocation involving nine eastern black rhinos from South Africa was successfully done early this month (September), after years of planning.
The rhinos were transported from South Africa to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), in Tanzania by a cargo plane.
Then they were later flown to Grumeti concession areas in Western Serengeti.
Grumeti Fund says this is the largest ever single movement of rhinos into Tanzania. Strong partnerships are paramount to the re-establishment of the critically endangered species, according to the Grumeti Fund Executive Director, Mr Stephen Cunliffe.
The Grumeti Fund’s black rhino re-establishment has involved years of planning and millions of dollars.
“We strongly believe that you can put a price on the survival of a species, so Grumeti Fund will continue to fundraise, invest and work tirelessly with our partners to see black rhinos safe and thriving in the Serengeti ecosystem, “Mr Cunliffe said during the arrival of the nine rhinos.
Serengeti National Park was home to an estimated 7 00 rhinos in 1980’s but the number later went down to an alarming rate due poaching crisis fueled by a lucrative illegal trade in wildlife products.
Consequently the remaining eastern black rhinos in the Serengeti ecosystem are on the IUCN list of the critically of endangered species.
During the rhino poaching crisis of the 197 7 0’s ad 1980’s black rhino from various parts of East Africa were translocated to safe havens in international zoos and exsitu breeding sanctuaries in a bid to safeguard the species with the hope of eventually returning them back once the situation is under control.
That is exactly what is happening now. The arrival of the nine rhinos from South Africa is expected to increase the national population of the endangered species by approximately 10 per cent.
“The animals were carefully selected by age and genetic composition are directed to the rhinos removed from East Africa in the 197 0’s and will be an extreme value to the genetic diversity of the existing Serengeti rhino population”,
Grumeti Fund said in its latest press release made available to the media during the arrival day of the nine rhinos.
“It is also important to highlight the vital role played by the South African government and Thaba Tholo-the breeding farm where these rhinos were sourced as custodians of these valuable eastern black rhino”, reads part of the press release.
After the arriving at Grumeti airstrip, the rhinos were transferred by a truck to their temporary closures under tidy security where they will remind until when a team of wildlife veterinarians deem them fit for release into the wider Serengeti ecosystem.
“Rhino populations have crushed before in Africa, but they have survived, and recovered, because of people who do something about the problem.
With the support of the Tanzanian government, we are confident that we can do it again in the Serengeti”, said Grant Burden, the Head of Special Projects at Grumeti Fund.
Mara Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Adam Malima led the reception of the nine rhinos at Grumeti airstrip.
He thanked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and Grumeti Fund for making the relocation of the rhinos a success story. “Y ou can see that even the reception of rhinos is a complex issue.
It is not a joke”, Mr Malima remarked, shortly after the arrival of the rhinos at Grumeti airstrip.
He said security officials in the region are well prepared to protect the rhinos. “We will protect them (rhinos) and no one should dare to test us “, the RC who is also the chairperson of the Mara regional defence and security committee remarked after receiving the rhinos.
Members of the regional defence and security committee and several wildlife conservationists witnessed the coming of the nine rhinos.
Within the Grumeti concession area there are currently two eastern black rhinos (one male and one female), residing in a 27 6 hectare intensive protection zone.
One is a nine-year-old bull, Eric who arrived in September 2018 from San Diego Safari Park.
Eric has undergone a process of naturalisation in an effort to ensure that he is fully adapted and fit for release into the wider Serengeti ecosystem towards the end of 2019.
While the female, Laikipia, is also a captive-bred rhino that came to Tanzania from Port Lympne Reserve in the U.K in 2007 .
“Once acclimatised to their new surroundings, all 11 rhinos are expected to be released into the Serengeti ecosystem before the end of the year”, another part of the Grumeti Fund press release hinted.
Grumeti Fund is a nonprofit making organisation that manages 350,000 acres in the Western Serengeti in partnership with the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA).
The area forms a buffer zone to the Serengeti National Park have seen significant increase of wild animals like elephants and buffalo.
With a strong antipoaching presence in and plenty of ideally-suited rhino habitat, TAWA and Grumeti Fund under the leadership of Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, are poised to grow and meaningful contribute to the rhino conservation in Tanzania by establishing a healthy breeding population of eastern black rhino within the greater Serengeti ecosystem.
“The traction and success of the black rhino re-establishment project has been built upon an open-door policy of collaboration where we actively engage in long-term government partnerships, while simultaneously seeking out alliances with likeminded conservation organizations and philanthropists ", Mr Cunliffe said.
Besides conservation of wildlife, Grumeti Fund also supports local development something which has helped to change the mind set of local communities who in the past relied on poaching as a source of income earner.
For example every year, the non-profit making organization offers scholarship to needy but bright students in 21 villages of Serengeti and Bunda Districts bordering Ikorongo/Grumeti Game Reserves.
Several hundreds of young women and men have benefited from the scholarship programme since 2009 when it was establishe