In September 2007 Hamish Currie took Zoo Dvur Kralove director Dr Dana Holeckova and Dr Martin Smrcek to Tanzania to explore the possibility of supplementing the small population of Eastern Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) (originally introduced from Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa) from the zoo to Mkomazi National Park in North Eastern Tanzania.
Mkomazi is managed by Tony Fitzjohn. Tony Fitzjohn met again with Hamish Currie and Dana Holeckova in Cape Town in June2008 where an agreement was reached to transfer three rhinos to Mkomazi.
The Mkomazi Game Reserve was established by the Tanzanian Government in 1951. It encompasses over 1,200 square miles (3,276 sq. km) in northeast Tanzania. Adjacent to Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, together they comprise one of the largest protected wilderness ecosystems in Africa.
In 1989, a request came from the Tanzanian Government to the Tony Fitzjohn/George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust and Tony Fitzjohn to work in partnership with them in the rehabilitation of the reserve and to initiate crucial endangered species programmes. In 2005, the Mkomazi Game Reserve was declared a National Park by the Tanzanian government in Parliament.
After weeks of crate training at the zoo with zoo keepers from Zoo Dvur Kralove and “rhino whisperer” Berry White from the UK, the three rhinos (Deborah Jamie and Jabu) arrived on a 747 cargo flight at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania on the 30th May 2009 three black rhinos.
They were accompanied by Back to Africa director Dr Peter Morkel. To meet them on the tarmac was Tony Fitzjohn of Mkomazi and Back to Africa’s Hamish Currie. They were loaded onto three separate trucks for a five and a half hour road journey to Mkomazi. A large delegation was there to meet them at Mkomazi. This included government officials, press reporters, embassy personnel and excited staff of Mkomazi National Park.
This was followed by the relocation of another female Eliska in 2016 from Zoo Dvur Kralove who sadly died after being killed by another rhino called Monduli.
DR PETER MORKEL OFF LOADING AT KILIMANJARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
This was followed by a further two animals, Grumeti and Zawadi, from Port Lympne Zoo in the United Kingdom in 2012.
The animals are breeding well with Deborah having had three calves. In 2019 there are 31 animals in the project. This is a true conservation success story and is testament to the fact that zoo animals can play a role in species conservation.
The commitment of Zoo Dvur Kralove and the Aspinall Foundation is acknowledged in supporting conservation by breeding animals for this purpose.
Dvur Kralove will soon be sending another group of black rhino to Akagera National Park in Rwanda which is managed by the African Parks organisation. This will supplement a founder population introduced from Thaba Tholo, South Africa. Back to Africa director Pete Morkel will be the veterinarian in charge of transporting these animals.