Pigs don’t fly yet, but rhinos do.
Six black rhinoceroses were flown from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad last week, reuniting the threatened animal with a land it has not roamed in nearly five decades.
Chad is one of several African countries that have recently sought to start their own small black rhino populations in an attempt to protect the species from extinction. It is a participant in the African Rhino Conservation Plan, which hopes to significantly grow the number of rhinos in Africa over the next five years.
“My fervent hope is that this reintroduction will contribute to the strengthening of conservation,” said Titus Matlakeng, South Africa’s ambassador to Chad.
Veterinarians in South Africa began training the six rhinos three months ago to prepare them for the trip, said Janine Raftopoulos, head of corporate communications for South African National Parks. The handlers kept the rhinos in bomas, or small enclosures, so they would be accustomed to spending time in confined spaces.
The rhinos were sedated for the flight and accompanied by support staff and veterinarians. They were closely monitored throughout the trip to Chad.
Up until the mid-20th century, black rhinos dominated the landscape of Chad, grazing and attracting tourists. But they also attracted poachers, who hunted them for their horns, which are coveted for traditional Chinese medicinal practices and are displayed as status symbols.