KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Ten eastern black rhinos have been relocated to Rwanda's Akagera National Park from South Africa a decade after the poaching-threatened animal was last seen in the park, authorities said Tuesday.
The relocation is the result of Rwanda's collaboration with African Parks, which manages protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent.
"Rhinos are one of the great symbols of Africa, yet they are severely threatened and are on the decline in many places across the continent due to the extremely lucrative and illegal rhino horn trade," African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead said in a statement. "The rhino's return to this country, however, is a testament to Rwanda's extraordinary commitment to conservation and is another milestone in the restoration of Akagera's natural diversity."
Under the arrangement funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, up to 20 eastern black rhinos will be transferred to Rwanda this month. The Rwanda Development Board called the relocation "a historic move for the nation and the species."
Around 1,000 eastern black rhinos remain in the wild.
The last sighting of a rhino in Rwanda's Akagera park was in 2007. In the 1970s more than 50 black rhinos thrived there but their numbers declined under pressure from poachers, African Parks said.
Rhinos are threatened by demand for their horns in parts of Asia, where some consumers believe rhino horn in powder form can cure illnesses, although there is no evidence that the horn has any medicinal value.
Akagera is now safe for the rhinos because there are security measures, including an expertly trained rhino tracking and protection team, that have been implemented to ensure the animals' safety, African Parks said.
In 2015, seven lions were reintroduced in Akagera after the cats had been wiped out there.