Written by Staff Writer
Rhinos are a cherished and iconic species and have achieved universal appeal due to their incredible beauty, majestic size and innate behavior.
But conservationists have struggled to protect them from the brutal forces of an increasingly devastating poaching crisis which has seen the death of 80% of the world’s rhino population.
To mark World Rhino Day on Monday, a team of experts aboard the First Air, a 70-seater Ecova Canadienne scheduled commuter airplane, departed from Ottawa in Canada to carry out the largest wildlife rescue mission in history.
The rhinos, rescued from the perilously high risk conditions of the African savanna, were evacuated aboard the First Air Flight from Banff National Park, Canada’s largest national park, to the world-renowned wildlife sanctuary Mulu Sanctuary, Tanzania.
On board the 3,800 nautical mile flight the team transported nine African white rhinos to their new home, which boasts 100,000 acres of protected land — over five times the size of neighboring Harare National Park in Zimbabwe — in the Kenyatta National Park.
What’s more, the gentle giants will be able to start producing their healthy offspring, ensuring that they continue to thrive into the future.
Veterinarians from the conservancy will act as translocationists and join a local veterinarian in the neighbouring African country of Kenya, as well as conservationists and medical professionals who are on standby if any of the rhinos should need treatment.
Dr. Adedeji Adeyeye, chief conservator at the Kenyatta National Park, says that Mulu will help in stopping the illegal trade of rhino horn. Credit: Courtesy Kenyatta National Park
Thanks to experts’ decades-long work, Africa’s rhino population is now rising, increasing from just 12,000 in the early 1980s to between 30,000 and 35,000 today.
This growing population has achieved momentum with the recent recovery of several elephants and rhinos across the continent. While wild rhinos have slightly recovered in South Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo they are still struggling to rebut the political and other conflicts which threaten their continued survival.
“The nations that are poached are not insured for extinction,” says Mulu’s Chief Conservator Dr. Adedeji Adeyeye, speaking to CNN’s Barbara Starr. “Many of the livestock and rangelands are controlled by these poachers; so getting these rhinos to an organized sanctuary is going to save the wildlife.”