The critically endangered black rhino has returned to the wilds of Rwanda with the help of animal transport specialist Intradco Global and Etihad Cargo.
On behalf of African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent, Intradco chartered two Etihad Boeing 777 Freighters to transport the 19 black rhinos from Johannesburg to the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Upon touching down in Kigali International Airport, the rhinos were carefully transferred to trucks to continue the final leg of their journey by road, under police escort.
10 rhinos travelled on the first flight, and nine on the second, along with the three vets and two attendants who accompanied them for the duration of their entire journey from Johannesburg to Akagera.
The rhinos, which can weigh up to 2,500kg each, were transported in special pallets which also contained their feed for the journey. The temperature on the aircraft is specified by the vet to ensure the animals do not overheat or become stressed.
The project to return the rhinos took place over the first two weeks of May, and represents an historical moment for the country after the species disappeared in 2007 following decades of wide spread poaching.
The complex logistics involved required the expertise of Intradco’s specialists who spent more than a year planning the journey with Etihad Cargo who operated the flights.
Intradco worked closely with African Parks and the Akegara team to ensure all permits and clearances were in place including valid CITES documentation (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) – a requirement when transporting listed species such as black rhino.
Intradco project manager, Tom Lamb says: “It is a brilliant achievement to return the extremely rare eastern black rhino to Rwanda after a 10-year absence. There are only 1,000 left globally so moving two per cent of the world’s population was a big responsibility and challenge, and an incredible project to be a part of.
“It was a privilege to be able to accompany the rhinos on their homecoming and witness their release back into the wild. We would also like to thank Etihad Cargo for their role in professionally operating the two flights.”
Etihad Cargo senior vice president, David Kerr adds: “Last year, Etihad Airways became one of the first airlines to sign the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products, known as the Buckingham Palace Declaration, as a demonstration of our support for preventing illegal wildlife trade – estimated to be worth up to $20 billion today.
“As a key mode of transport for transporting this caught wildlife across borders, it is the responsibility of the aviation industry to take action to prevent this.”