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Rhinos return to Rwanda

AKAGERA, Rwanda: May 25, 2017. Ten years after the Eastern black rhino disappeared from Rwanda following decades of poaching, 19 animals have now taken up residence in the country's Akagera National Park courtesy of Etihad Cargo and livestock charter specialist Intradco.

On behalf of African Parks, a non-profit conservation manager for African several governments, Intradco chartered two Etihad B777 freighters to carry the critical endangered animals from Johannesburg to Kigali where they were transferred to trucks for a five-hour road trip to their new home.

Intradco said it spent a year planning the logistics of the move with Etihad, African Parks and the Akagera Management Company that included obtaining a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate.

ETIHAD RHINO 3Akagera park manager Jes Gruner 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," he continued.

(Picture courtesy of Dave Toovey and African Parks Network, Akagera Park.)

According to the WWF, last year 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in South Africa, slightly less than 1,175 in 2015 and 1,215 in 2014. The 2016 figure represent a loss of approximately 6.0 percent, which is close to the rhino birth rate. South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe are home to nearly 95 percent of all remaining African rhinos.

The global conservation organization said criminals kill the animals for their horns "which are mistakenly believed to cure a variety of ailments from fevers to blood disorders to hangovers".

Etihad operated two flights over the first half of May to carry the rhinos, weighing up to 2,500 kgs each, and accompanied door-to-door by three vets, two attendants and Intradco project manager Tom Lamb who commented: "It is a brilliant achievement to return the extremely rare eastern black rhino to Rwanda after a 10-year absence. There are only 1,000 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.

"It was a privilege to be able to accompany the rhinos on their homecoming and witness their release back into the wild."

Etihad Cargo senior vice president David Kerr added: "Last year Etihad Airways became one of the first airlines to sign the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products, known as the Buckingham Palace Declaration, as a demonstration of our support for preventing illegal wildlife trade – estimated to be worth up to US$20 billion today. As a key mode of transport for transporting this caught wildlife across borders, it is the responsibility of the aviation industry to take action to prevent this."

*Mr. Buffett is the son of Warren Buffett.

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