There are just eight Northern White Rhinos in the world, and until last weekend the only ones capable of reproducing were here in the Czech Republic. However, while they were able to reproduce, they were not willing, and they have now been moved to the wild in Africa, where it is hoped they will mate and save their subspecies.
The four Northern White Rhinos were shipped to the Kenyan reserve Ol Pejeta from the Dvůr Králové Zoo via DHL at a cost of 5 million crowns. That though is no big price to those who paid it, if it ends up saving the subspecies from extinction. Elodie Sampere was one of the specialists who received the animals in Kenya and is monitoring their situation.
“I saw them this morning, they had a long trip but they looked really good. Sudan, who is the oldest male, came out this morning and went into a bigger pen that he has and was rubbing his horn against a tree and eating grass and looking really curious and happy. Sudan was actually born in Africa, and was taken to the Czech Republic when he was a year and a half. So he’s really coming home, and it was a really emotional moment for all of us today when he came out.”
Understandably, moving four rhinoceroses from continent to continent is a big task, in fact the biggest that the Dvůr Králové Zoo has ever undertaken, and the ordeal it poses for the animals was one of the main criticisms of the venture. They had to be mildly sedated to abide being moved by cranes and hours in crates on trucks to Prague, by plane to Kenya and by truck again to the wildlife reserve. Curiously, their horns also had to be trimmed for safety’s sake. The horns will grow back in a year or so, during which time the rhinoceroses will be very carefully acclimatised.
“The rhinos are being kept in what we call ‘bomas’ in Kenya, basically pens, they’re being monitored every day 24 hours a day, there are vets with them, there are security staff with them. We’re carefully monitoring any health issues. We’re adjusting their food appropriately; they are still eating the same food they were eating in the zoo, and we will slowly switch them to African grass and things from their environment.”
The reason all this is happening though was neatly summed up in a sign on the side of each crate: “last chance to survive”. As the animals will not reproduce freely in captivity, the move is seen as their last hope.