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Five European-born black rhinos to be released in Rwanda

Five critically-endangered black rhinos are being transferred from captivity in Europe to a nature reserve in Rwanda.

The animals are being flown 3,700 miles (6,000km) today as part of the biggest ever transportation of rhinos from Europe to Africa, following years of preparations.

Less than 5,000 wild black rhinos and only 1,000 eastern black rhinos are left in Africa and they remain under threat from poaching.

Three female and two male black rhinos, aged between two and nine, were chosen for the move to Akagera National Park.

All five were born and bred in Europe and have been in captivity for their whole lives.

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Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Safari Park Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic, Mandela comes from Ree Park Safari in Denmark, and Olmoti is from Flamingo Land in the UK.

They have been donated to the Rwanda Development Board in an effort to boost the black rhino population in East Africa.

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The five rhinos were initially kept at Safari Park Dvur Kralove so they could be trained for living in the wild.

They have also undergone months of training to prepare them for the 30-hour long journey from Europe to Africa and will be accompanied and monitored by experienced zookeepers and a veterinarian.

Jasmina was transferred from Safari Park Dvur Kralove. Pic: African Parks
Image: Jasmina is being transferred from Safari Park Dvur Kralove. Pic: African Parks

Custom-made crates are being used to transport the animals.

Jes Gruner, park manager at Akagera National Park, told Sky News it had taken a couple of years to find the right animals, which had been held in the Czech Republic since November last year.

"They've been in their cages in Europe," he said. "Now they've been used to crates that are loaded on the vehicles, used to noise and when they get here at midnight we're going to gradually release them.

"It's going to take a couple of months before they're totally accustomed to this new environment."

Premysl Rabas, director of Safari Park Dvur Kralove, said the rhinos would first be kept in enclosures made by wooden poles, then be transferred to larger enclosures in a protected area.

"The final step will be to release them into the northern part of the national park where they will roam free," he said.

This black rhino was transferred to Akagera National Park in 2017. Pic: African Parks
Image: This black rhino was transferred to Akagera National Park in 2017. Pic: African Parks

Akagera National Park has practically eliminated poaching in recent years and has allowed a number of key species to be reintroduced, including lions in 2015 – which have since tripled in number.

In 2017, some 18 rhinos were reintroduced to the park.

The five new rhinos will be studied as they get used to their new home and are expected to be a positive addition to the area's ecosystem.

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