Five critically endangered eastern black rhinos travelled from a Czech safari park to begin new lives in Rwanda's Akagera National Park.
Five critically endangered eastern black rhinos travelled from Czech safari park Dvur Kralove to Rwanda's Akagera National Park on Monday.
The 6,000km expedition was the largest transportation of rhinos from Europe to Africa in history.
With fewer than 1,000 eastern black rhinos remaining in Africa, rhinos from Europe can help diversify the gene pool. "If Rwanda wants to have a new, good and sustainable generation of rhinos, it is good for their animals to breed with others," says Dvur Kralove's communications director Jan Stejskal.
For a journey of this length, preparations have to be made months in advance. Mandela and Olmoti, a male and female rhino from Denmark and the UK respectively, were brought to Dvur Kralove last autumn to meet and form relationships with their Czech travel companions.
Despite outward appearances, rhinos have an exceptionally sensitive and nervous disposition. To help the animals feel as relaxed as possible, the rhinos were introduced to their custom-made transport crates ahead of the 30-hour journey. Keepers hugged and fed the animals in their crates in order to make them feel like home.
Upon their arrival in Akagera, the rhinos will have to acclimatise slowly to their new surroundings. Special enclosures called bomas, made from wooden poles will be used in this process, so the rhinos can adjust to their surroundings without being overwhelmed before gradually being moved to more spacious enclosures. They will eventually be permitted to roam free in the park.