- Two of the six black rhinos that were flown from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad in May this year have died.
- The two rhinos, a male and a female, were not poached, African Parks said, but the exact cause of death is not yet known.
- The translocation of the six rhinos marked the return of critically endangered black rhinos to Chad after nearly 50 years of the species’ absence.
- The four surviving rhinos are still alive and are being closely monitored, African Parks said.
Two of the six black rhinoceroses flown to Chad’s Zakouma National Park from South Africa earlier this year have died, according to the NGO behind the translocation program.
African Parks, which runs parks and protected areas in nine African countries, said in a statement on Oct. 21 that the two rhino carcasses were discovered in separate locations in Zakouma on Oct. 15.
“We can confirm that these two rhinos (a male and a female) were not poached, however, the exact cause of death is not yet known,” the statement read. “A specialist Veterinarian was dispatched and is now on site in Zakouma National Park in order to conduct a postmortem that will provide more information on the cause of death and assess the situation to advise on further actions. Details of this will be made available once the cause has been confirmed.”
African Parks had worked with government agencies in Chad and South Africa to move six rhinos (two males and four females) to Zakouma in May this year. No black rhino (Diceros bicornis) had been spotted in Zakouma, Chad’s oldest national park, since the early 1970s, and the arrival of the batch from South Africa’s Addo National Park marked the return of the species to the country after nearly 50 years of absence
Once widespread throughout Africa, only about 5,000 black rhinos remain, represented by three subspecies. Chad was once home to both the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes), declared extinct in 2011, and the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), a subspecies of the white rhino that’s functionally extinct, with only two females left. Intense poaching for rhino horn wiped out both subspecies from Chad several decades ago.
The rhino translocation to Zakouma National Park was aimed at the long-term conservation of the critically endangered black rhino, and followed terms of a memorandum of understanding signed in October 2017 between the governments of South Africa and Chad. African Parks, which assumed management of Zakouma in 2010 with the government of Chad, implemented measures to ramp up security of the park and to ensure the well-being of reintroduced animals. Following the successful translocation in May, Chad became one of 11 countries with wild African rhinos.
The reintroduced rhinos were initially held in enclosures called bomas in the national park for two months to help them acclimate to their new environment, and were later released into a temporary sanctuary for another two months. The rhinos were allowed to roam freely in the wider park since August this year. The four surviving rhinos are still alive and are being closely monitored, African Parks said.
“Consultations between the Governments of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Chad, including SANParks” — South African National Parks — “and African Parks are underway to establish the cause of death of the two rhinos and to take any necessary precautionary actions to avert a similar occurrence with the remaining four animals,” African Parks said in the statement.
The rhino deaths in Chad are the second such incident this year associated with the translocation of the animals. In a botched translocation in July this year, all 11 black rhinos that were moved from parks near Nairobi, Kenya, to Tsavo East National Park reportedly died from salt poisoning and dehydration.