Seventeen black rhinos from South Africa have been successfully moved to Liwonde National Park in Malawi in one of the largest international Black rhino translocations to date. 

WWF South Africa, African Parks, Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife were involved in the project.

Based on a custodianship agreement between the governments of Malawi and South Africa, the aim is to boost Malawi’s Black rhino populations and aid regional efforts to conserve the critically endangered species. This is the first cross-border translocation undertaken by WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

The 17 rhinos were captured in KwaZulu Natal and quarantined for six weeks in one of Ezemvelo’s parks before being flown from King Shaka airport in Durban to Lilongwe. From Lilongwe, they were driven to Liwonde National Park, where they were released on November 12.

The Liwonde National Park has seen wildlife introductions, relocations and transformations, including those of cheetah, lions and elephants.

African Parks is also moving two of Liwonde’s Black rhinos to Majete Wildlife Reserve, and another from Majete to Liwonde, to further enhance genetic diversity.

African Parks’ efforts, together with the DNPW and local communities to secure and restore Majete and Liwonde since 2003 and 2015 respectively, have transformed these landscapes, resulting in the reduction of poaching and numerous reintroductions of key species.

Measures to protect the rhinos include aerial surveillance, daily ranger patrols and the integration of advanced technology to enable their live-time tracking. Each animal has been fitted with a new GPS sensor device from Smart Parks, allowing teams to accurately monitor their activity and location on a constant basis. 

Only about 5 500 Black rhinos remain in the wild.