Seventeen black rhinos were released into Malawi’s Liwonde national park after arriving from South Africa as part of conservation efforts aimed at keeping the local population of the endangered species healthy and safe.
By moving the animals, in one of the biggest international relocations of its kind, conservationists hope to ensure wild black rhinos remain genetically diverse to better fight disease.
Peter Fearnhead, Chief Executive of African Parks, a private conservation trust that runs game reserves in Malawi, said the relocation reflected local efforts to keep rhinos and other wildlife safe. Anti-poaching measures in Malawi include deploying British troops to patrol reserves.
“Extensive measures to protect animals include aerial surveillance, daily ranger patrols and integration of most advanced technology to enable live-time tracking,” Fearnhead said.
“With less than 5 500 black rhinos remaining in the wild, translocations to well-protected areas are essential for long-term survival.”
The first translocation of two rhinos from South Africa’s Kruger National Park took place in 1992. The latest transfer was organised by wildlife departments in the two countries and WWF South Africa.
The 17 rhinos were captured in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and quarantined for six weeks at Imfolozi Game Reserve, after which they were flown from King Shaka airport to Lilongwe in Malawi.
Britain’s Prince Harry is involved in conservation efforts at Liwonde, in Eastern Southern Malawi on the Shire river.
“This is a boost to the endangered rhino species hunted down for its horn,” said Brightson Kumchedwa, director of parks and wildlife in Malawi’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
“For the South African government to release the 17 is a sign of confidence in Malawi’s efforts to improve wildlife security.”