TANZANIA expects the return of 27 rhinos to Serengeti National Park from South Africa next year. The rhinos were among the 32 which were sent to South Africa for breeding.
"We received five of the 32 Black Rhinos in May, 2010 but, unfortunately, one of them (George) got killed and de-horned by poachers. The remaining 27 animals will be flown into Serengeti any time next year. "Relocation of the animals should be completed before the end of next year," said Mr Mtango Mtahiko, who is the Chief Park Warden for Serengeti.
Mr Mtahiko was briefing members of Parliamentary Committee for Land, Natural Resources and Environment, who are on a familiarization tour of national parks. The legislators wanted to know the kind of efforts that will be made to ensure that the 27 rhinos, which are expected to be shunted back into the Serengeti, will be safe from poachers.
"We are executing a special notching exercise and fixing electronic tracking devices on all rhinos in the park in addition to strengthening patrols in the plains," Mr Mtahiko said. Additional measures include aerial patrols by helicopter and the involvement of residents in the villages surrounding the park.
Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) is also contemplating creating a special rhino sanctuary inside the Serengeti plains where the ferocious horned animals could be kept under strict surveillance. However, reports have it that, conservators from other corridors are opposing the "enclosure" move, though it is also being undertaken elsewhere such as Mkomazi National Park in Kilimanjaro Region.
"Rhinos are territorial animals that normally like to roam or venture out into open spaces. This makes them difficult to trace and it is this anomaly that exposes them to poachers who hunt them for their horns," Mr Allan Kijazi, the Director General for Tanapa explained.
The previous five and the other 27 rhinos being relocated to Serengeti from South Africa are from a larger group of 32 animals being reintroduced to Tanzania from a 50-strong herd. The rhinos hail from seven animals that were sent to South Africa in the early 1960s.
The Serengeti Rhino Repatriation project is being undertaken by Tanzania Government in association with Singita Grumeti Game Reserve of South Africa and the Frankfurt Zoological Society at the cost of 750,000 US Dollars/-. The project is aimed at replenishing the number of rhinos in Serengeti National Park which is famous for its annual wildebeest and Zebra migration.
Serengeti attracts an average of 350,000 tourists a year who help raise the park's annual revenue of 45bn/-. The black rhinos (Diceros Bicornis) were originally taken from Tanzania. South Africa which has been breeding the animals in the last 50 years had no black Rhinos.