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Leading aircraft charter specialist, Air Charter Service, was recently called into action by non-profit conservation organisation African Parks to help them in their relocation of 16 southern white rhino to Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from a private game reserve in South Africa.

Lyndee du Toit, ACS South Africa’s CEO, said: “The last northern white rhino was poached in the DRC in 2006 and this project, arranged by African Parks, is part of a ground-breaking effort to restore the ecological balance of one of Africa’s oldest national parks.

“We were contacted by African Parks to source a suitable solution for the transportation of 16 rhinos from Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We decided that a Hercules L-100 would be the best fit for the job, largely because of its ability to land on short, dirt runways. The rear-loading capability of the Herc was also utilised as Barrick’s Kibali Mine airstrip in north eastern DRC didn’t have sufficient equipment to assist in offloading the rhinos. Using this aircraft meant that two flights were needed, as each rhino weighing around 2 tons or more. Through careful planning, we were able to perform both flights in the same week, with both being loaded at night and both arriving at first light in Kibali.

African Parks’ CEO, Peter Fearnhead, said, “Now that Garamba is a safe location and has proper protection in place, this reintroduction is the start of a process whereby southern white rhino as the closest genetic alternative can fulfil the role of the northern white rhino in the landscape.”

The translocation was achieved through a collaboration with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), African Parks and &Beyond, and was sponsored by the Barrick Gold Corporation who have undertaken to support the project over the next few years. 

Photo Credit: Martin van Rooyen

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