For more than ten years, white rhinos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were considered extinct.
Now 16 specimens of the southern subspecies have been relocated from South Africa to the Garamba National Park in north-eastern Congo by the conservation organization African Parks.
It comes at a time when the promise by Kenya to donate White Rhinos to Tanzania is yet to be realized.
In the coming years, a total of around 70 white rhinos are to be brought to the Congo.
If successful, the project is going to be the largest rhino resettlement ever.
The Garamba National Park, which lies on the border with South Sudan, was thought to be the last natural retreat for the northern white rhino, the other subspecies of white rhino.
That is until the animals disappeared there around 15 years ago.
Now in a ground-breaking effort to restore the ecological balance of one of Africa’s oldest national parks, 16 southern white rhino have been introduced to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
They were taken from &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
The translocation was achieved through a collaboration with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), African Parks and &Beyond, and was sponsored by the Barrick Gold Corporation who have undertaken to support the project over the next few years.
“The return of white rhinos to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a testament to our country’s commitment to biodiversity conservation.
As Garamba is poised to become a globally important sanctuary for mega herbivores, introducing southern white rhino to the country is an important step in advancing our contribution to rhino conservation in Africa. We are grateful to our conservation partners, who play a significant role in supporting us in fulfilling our objectives and promoting sustainable, transformational, and equitable socio-economic growth.Milan Ngangay Yves – The Director General of ICCN
African Parks’ CEO, Peter Fearnhead, said, “Efforts to save the northern white rhino was a case of ‘too little too late’ and should never be allowed to happen again.
“Now that Garamba is a safe location and has proper protection in place, this reintroduction is the start of a process whereby southern white rhino as the closest genetic alternative can fulfil the role of the northern white rhino in the landscape.”
“We thank the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their visionary conservation leadership, the local communities for their support and eagerness to protect this iconic species, Barrick Gold Corporation for funding the project and their technical support in executing it, and the ‘And Beyond,’ for providing the founder population of rhinos.”Peter Fearnhead – CEO African Parks
Initially considered extinct in the late 19th century, a small population of fewer than a hundred southern white rhino was discovered in KwaZulu Natal in 1895.
Through dedicated conservation efforts spanning a century, the population has grown significantly, reaching between 19,600 and 21,000 individuals residing in protected areas and private game reserves, predominantly within South Africa.
Today they are classified on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened.
However, recent years have seen a renewed decline in the white rhino population because of poaching with the current population estimated at over 15,000 animals.
The proactive move to Garamba aims to repopulate areas where rhinos have become locally extinct and establish healthy populations in secure locations. This strategic endeavour holds promise for the species’ long-term viability in the DRC.