Southern Black Rhino Project - PROJECT CANCELLED

Back to Africa’s latest project involves the relocation of two Southern Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis minor) from Frankfurt Zoo, Germany to Mkhaya Game Reserve, Swaziland. These two rhinos, a female Tsororo and a male Kalusho, have no future in the European breeding programme and hence have no conservation value in their present location.

Mkhaya Game Reserve
Mkhaya Game Reserve is a proclaimed protected area under the laws of Swaziland and is located in the lowveld of Swaziland, East of Siphofaneni. This area is highly suited to Black Rhinos and Mkhaya has one of the best security networks of any rhino sanctuary in Africa. Mkhaya currently acts as Swaziland’s “seedbed” for the propagation of various endangered and rare lowveld species from where surplus animals are relocated to other protected areas.

Some of the existing Black Rhino in Mkhaya are of the same genetic origin as Kalusho and Tsororo who were caught wild in the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe. Rescuing their genetic material for a breeding project in Africa is a priority as a genetic bottleneck is developing in Mkhaya’s Black Rhino population and new blood is needed urgently to prevent inbreeding. By integrating Tsororo and Kalusho into the Swazi population, their genetic contribution will eventually be felt in other populations of Diceros bicornis minor as Mkhaya participates in the regional meta-population management of Black Rhinos.

The area into which Tsororo and Kalusho will be released will be subject to intensive security and rhino monitoring patrols.

It must be noted that Swaziland arguably has the toughest anti-poaching laws in Africa where convicted first offender rhino poachers and traffickers stand to be sentenced to a minimum mandatory jail term of 5 and 7 years respectively without the option of a fine or suspension of the sentence. Second or subsequent offenders in the case of rhino crimes shall receive the mandatory maximum sentence of 15 years without the option of a fine or suspension. 

Introduction Strategy
The introduction of the rhinos from Frankfurt Zoo into the existing Mkhaya rhino population will take place in stages. Tsororo and Kalusho will be acclimatized in temporary bomas before being released into a fenced area of 1887ha presently occupied by a single female rhino. More females will be added at a later stage. It is hoped that once breeding begins, internal fences will be dropped, integrating the rhinos with the existing population, and surplus bulls will be removed based on territorial dominance threats in order to create an environment that maximises reproduction and creates a genetic representation that is as diverse as possible.

Project Status
Tsororo and Kalusho have been dehorned to prevent temptation by poachers and the boma at Mkhaya is under construction. Travel arrangements are being organised and funding procured. The rhinos should land in the winter of 2012.


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