Four black rhino bulls were translocated from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Weenen Nature Reserve and Ithala Game Reserve to Bonamanzi Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Nata to increase the habitat available to the species.
The successful move, made possible by funding from the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, was carried out by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Heligistix, and Wildlife ACT. Under the terms of the agreement, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife provides the rhino, while the receiving property is responsible for the care and custodianship of the animals.
Led by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Game Capture Unit, including their veterinary team, the rhino were darted, dehorned, and loaded into large crates. The Game Capture Unit transported them via trucks safely to their new home at Bonamanzi Game Reserve.
The selection process
Not just any four rhino were chosen to relocate. The animals were selected through thorough assessment criteria. Having reached maturity, these bulls were relocated in order to preserve the genetics of the Weenen and Ithala Black Rhino population, as well as to prevent conflict between the bulls.
‘Weenen has a very specific black rhino breeding program,’ says the Reserve’s Conservation Manager, Frik Lemmer. ‘These young bulls need to be relocated to other reserves in order to protect the genetic wellbeing of the population.’
‘We have a resident breeding bull on Weenen, and that animal should not be challenged in any way by other bulls on a property this size,’ Lemmer added. ‘It could lead to fighting, breakouts, and even the possible death of one of the animals.’
The relocation to Bonamanzi Game Reserve will not only protect existing populations, but also further promote the expansion of black rhino breeding opportunities in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Land expansion efforts
The aim of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project is to increase the species’ range and ultimately promote the growth of the population. ‘Black rhinos are very much at risk, which is why the breeding of these animals at smaller reserves like Weenen Nature Reserve is an important part of the population dynamic and the overall conservation of the species,’ says Lemmer.
WWF’s Black Rhino Expansion Project has successfully created 13 new black rhino populations in South Africa since beginning in 2003.
The move marks an exciting first for Bonamanzi Game Reserve, with these bulls being their first-ever black rhinos.
Prior to releasing the rhino into their new home, Wildlife ACT – specialising in threatened species monitoring and conservation – fitted each individual with tracking devices to ensure constant monitoring upon their release.
Pictures: Casey Pratt/Love Africa Marketing