Endangered Eastern black rhino from Flamingo Land to be released in Rwanda

A rhino who spent her early years in a North Yorkshire zoo will soon run free in Africa as part of a major conservation project.

Flamingo Land, in North Yorkshire, has been working with African and European groups to transfer its Eastern black rhino, Olmoti, along with four others from European zoos, to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda where they will be released.

Olmoti arrived at Flamingo Land as a calf in 2015 and in November last year she was taken to a safari park in the Czech Republic to be socialised with the four other rhinos who will be released into Akagera on Sunday.

Flamingo Land zoo manager Ross Snipp is travelling there along with head keeper Sam Debelle and CEO Gordon Gibb to watch the magical moment Olmoti is released into the wild.

Mr Snipp said the occasion would be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

He explained: “We joined the black rhino breeding programme and received a rhino and her calf in 2015 - the calf was Olmoti.

“Three years later we were approached to see if we would take part in this project which of course we said yes to straight away.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to the safeguarding of this species.”

Fewer than 5,000 wild black rhinos and only 1,000 Eastern black rhinos remain in Africa and their future is severely threatened by poaching.

In 2017, 18 rhinos were successfully reintroduced to Akagera and poaching has been practically eliminated in the park.

The re-location project is a unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks.

It is the largest ever translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa and will help bolster the critically endangered species in the wild.

On Sunday Olmoti and her companions will initially be released into enclosures made by wooden poles in the park.

Later, their enclosures will expand in a specially-protected area before the final step of releasing them to roam free.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s release, Mr Snipp said: “If you can’t get emotional about the release of a black rhino then you’re in the wrong job.”

He added: “I’m not going to lie, I’ll probably shed a tear.”

Source: The Northern Echo