Wildlife officials used a small plane, a helicopter and hunters on foot to track down and dart endangered rhinos with tranquilizers — the latest attempt to capture and relocate some of the animals from oldest Kenya’s oldest park.
Conservation workers targeted four black rhinos from the Nairobi National Park during an operation that began early Saturday at the sanctuary on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital. The animals were being moved because their population had grown beyond the park’s capacity, said Martin Mulama, the Kenya Wildlife Service Rhino Program Coordinator.
The relocation is also intended to restore wildlife diversity in the Meru Conservation Area, where 33 rhinos are being taken.
The rhinoceros population has declined by 90 percent since 1970, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered. The white and black rhinos are the only species left in Africa, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.
The rhino is threatened by people seeking its horn for use in folk medicine and high-priced ornaments and jewelry, although it is not a true horn — it is made of thickly matted hair that grows from the skull without skeletal support.
Rhino relocation is considered an effective method of managing the population. An estimated 200 black rhinos have been relocated to and between Kenya’s rhino conservation areas in the past 20 years, officials said.
Wildlife officials are using ultrasound for the first time to determine whether female rhinos are pregnant and so whether they can be transported safely to Meru.