The Intradco team are proud to have worked with African Parks and Akegara National Park on this special conservation project to return the critically endangered black rhino to the wilds of Rwanda with the help of Etihad Cargo.
The unique project took place over the first two weeks of May, and represents a historical moment for the country after the species disappeared in 2007 following decades of wide spread poaching.
On behalf of African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent, Intradco chartered two Etihad B777F freighters to transport the eighteen black rhino from Johannesburg to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, from where they were transferred to the Akagera National Park in the east of the country.
Ten rhinos travelled on the first flight, and nine on the second, along with the three vets and two attendants who accompanied the animals for the duration of their entire journey from Johannesburg to Akagera.
The rhinos, which can weigh up to 2,500 kg each, with the largest male of the group aptly named Hercules (weighing in at a sizeable 1.5 tonnes). Were transported in special pallets which also contained their feed for the journey. The temperature on the aircraft was specified by the vet to ensure the animals are comfortable, relaxed and do not overheat or become stressed.
The complex logistics involved in reintroducing the black rhino is a complex and unqiue project that required the expertise of a huge team of animal handlers, veterinarians and Intradco’s highly-trained specialists who spent more than a year planning the journey with Etihad Cargo brought in to operate the flights.
Intradco worked closely with African Parks and the Akegara team to ensure all permits and clearances were in place including valid CITES documentation (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) – a requirement when transporting listed species such as black rhino.
Jes Gruner, Akagera Park Manager, said:
“Together with the Rwanda Development Board and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we have spent the last three years preparing for this historic event, ensuring that the park is safe for the arrival of the rhinos and for their long-term future so they can breed and thrive.
“Akagera has transformed since African Parks assumed management in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board in 2010, overhauling law enforcement and reducing poaching to an all-time low in just six years, thus making it safe to bring these eastern black rhinos back home.”
Upon touching down in Kigali International Airport (KGL) the rhinos were carefully transferred to trucks to continue the final leg of their journey by road, conducted under police escort.
Tom Lamb, Intradco project manager, accompanied the animals on both flights and travelled with the team for the five hour drive to Akegara National Park where they were successfully released.
Commenting on the project, he said:
“It is a brilliant achievement to return the extremely rare East African Black Rhino to Rwanda after a 10 year absence. There are only 1000 left globally so moving two percent of the world’s population was a big responsibility and challenge, and an incredible project to be a part of.
Intradco is proud to have assisted African Parks and the other parties involved in this project. Transporting endangered species is a highly-specialised activity and charter operations of this nature require meticulous planning and close coordination.
It was a privilege to be able to accompany the rhinos on their homecoming and witness their release back into the wild. We would also like to thank Etihad Cargo for their role in professionally operating the two flights.”