Sunday 21 July 2019

San Diego Zoo has donated a black rhino called Eric to Tanzania

It is all part of efforts to encourage breeding among the critically-endangered species.

(San Diego Zoo Safari Park)
(San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

By Alistair Mason, Press Association

An eastern black rhino born and bred in San Diego has been donated to Tanzania as part of an ongoing effort to save the species from extinction.

The eight-year-old was gifted by the zoo to the eastern African nation in an attempt to promote breeding in the greater Serengeti ecosystem.

Eric’s new home will be the 350,000-acre Singita Grumeti, a private concession which is working with the Tanzanian Wildlife Management Authority and Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute to attempt to increase the local population of black rhinos.

(San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

“There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for what Eric’s arrival means for rhino conservation in Tanzania,” said Stephen Cunliffe, executive director of the Singita Grumeti Fund.

“He will be slowly acclimated to his new surroundings and we hope within 12 to 18 months he will be a wild, free-ranging black rhino.”

Eric, who was born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2010, has undergone a months-long preparation programme to get him ready for his move.

(San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

Staff spent time getting the 2,550-pound rhino used to his travel crate as well as slowly altering his diet to the kind of leaves that he will be eating in Tanzania.

There, the plan is to place him into a protected 682-acre zone alongside a female rhino, Laikipia, with whom it is hoped he will mate.

Steve Metzler, San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, said the move “could have not gone any better”, adding: “He was eating well along the journey and he has arrived safely and settled in very quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

(San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

In the zone, which has numerous safety measures to protect him from poachers, he will be tracked to see how he interacts with species of animals that are new to him, including elephants and zebras.

Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos remain alive today and only 740 eastern black rhinos.

There are thought to be between 50 and 100 in the Serengeti ecosystem.

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