A Black Rhino Airlift from South Africa to East Africa
Even the most jaded traveler is thrilled by the view out the window while landing in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, but one has to imagine that five particular passengers who were indeed on a trip of a lifetime last week were somewhat less than delighted -- not that they had much of a view.
Five endangered black rhinoceros were transported by air from South Africa's Addo Reserve to the Serengeti Park yesterday -- funded in part by Singita Grumeti Reserves, the Tanzania arm of Singita, which runs a group of ultra-luxury African safari lodges. (Other benefactors:The US Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Nduna Foundation.)The rhino relocation was part of a species preservation project over forty years in the making.
Gallery: Black Rhino Transport to East Africa
Rhinos are one of Africa's "big seven" species, a list of must-hunt animals for wealthy travelers on the continent. Today, it's evolved into a must-see list for safari-goers, but years of poaching took a horrific toll on the eastern black rhino population. Their numbers dwindled in the Serengeti park, down to as few as 70. (Worldwide, black rhino numbers dropped from 65,000 to just over 4,000 in 1995.)
In 1961 and 1962, seven black rhinos were transported from East Africa to a more controlled area in South Africa. Over the years, while the rhino population thrived in South Africa, efforts have been underway in East Africa to establish alternatives to poaching and to secure the black rhino's original habitat. (This was a project of Tanzania National Parks and the Frankfurt Zoological Society, funded by Singita Grumeti Reserves.)
The newcomers will be joined by 32 more relatives from South Africa over the next two years, and they'll all have their own protection force -- an elite Serengeti Rhino Protection Unit (SRPU), consisting of 23 rangers.