Molewa sees off rhinos being moved to Chad


South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa on 3 May witnessed the loading and departure of black rhinos from the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape to Chad.

On 8 October 2017, Dr Molewa and the then Minister of Environment and Fisheries of the Republic of Chad, Dr Ahmat Mbodou Mahamat, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Management in Pretoria. The Ministers had also signed a Memorandum which allows for the translocation of black rhino from South Africa to Chad as part of an initiative to reintroduce rhinos to the African country.

The signing of the custodianship agreement for rhino between the two countries marked another step towards a pledge that had been made in 2013 by then President Jacob Zuma to President Idris Deby to translocate and reintroduce black rhinoceros to Chad, the Department of Environmental Affairs said.

The Minister described the signing of the two Agreements as the deepening of the already good bilateral relations that exist between South Africa and Chad, with special focus on consolidation of economic cooperation and other areas of mutual interest.
“By establishing a viable and secure rhino population of rhino in Chad, we are contributing to the expansion of the rhino population in Africa, and the survival of a species that has faced high levels of poaching for the past decade,” said Minister Molewa.

The translocation of black rhino is being achieved through a collaboration between the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Government of Chad, South African National Parks (SANParks) and the African Parks Foundation. The rhinos are being translocated to the Zakouma national park that has experienced a dramatic decrease in poaching since 2010, with the local elephant population increasing for the first time in more than a decade. The last black rhino in Chad was noted in the 1970s in Zakouma.

Chad was historically home to at least two rhinoceros species. The northern white rhinoceros (Ceretotherium simum cottoni) most likely occurred in areas that now form part of southern Chad. The western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) lived in Zakouma up to 1972 when the rhino became locally extinct because of poaching. The MOU on the re-introduction of black rhino in Chad seeks to re-establish a rhinoceros population in Chad as part of the broader biodiversity initiatives between South Africa and Chad, the Department of Environmental Affairs said.

A team of experts from South Africa visited Chad in 2017 to assess the habitat, security and management suitability and associated ecological parameters, as well as infrastructural readiness prior to the translocation of black rhinos to Zakouma National Park from South Africa. This built on a feasibility study of the proposed translocation undertaken by the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group in 2015. The Republic of Chad earlier signed an agreement with African Parks Network (APN) which allows APN to manage the country’s national parks.
“The MOU signed between Minister Mahamat and us in October established a bilateral custodianship arrangement between our countries, which means the rhino will be placed under the protective care of the Republic of Chad and that any calves born will belong to Chad, but can used to establish new rhino populations within the continent in line with the African Rhino Range States Conservation Plan.”

In terms of the collaboration, the rhinos were sourced and captured by SANParks in South Africa. Once translocated, African Parks will manage and protect the rhino in Zakouma National Park as part of its overall responsibility for the total management of Zakouma NP. The management of the rhino will be done in accordance with African Rhino Range States’ African Rhino Conservation Plan, the draft Introduction and management plan for black rhinos in Chad.
“Translocation is but one of the interventions being implemented by South Africa a part of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach, added Minister Molewa.
“We have also concluded Memoranda of Understanding with a number of other countries in the fields of Biodiversity Management and Conservation, namely Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. Although once geographically widespread, with black rhino being found in 28 African countries, these animals are now restricted to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya, while Zambia, Botswana and Malawi support small recently-established fledgling populations. Establishing new populations of black rhino in former range states remains a priority of conservation plans to reduce environmental risk and provide conservation flagships.”

Black rhinos have been translocated by SANParks to Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and white rhino have been moved to Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Mozambique. Rhinos have also been translocated to Kenya and Swaziland by South Africa.