Zimbabwe loaded five black rhinos onto a plane bound for Botswana on Wednesday, its first such exports since the 1990s, as part of conservation efforts amid an increase in poaching in southern Africa. The animals were secured in crates loaded onto a camouflaged Botswana Defence Force (BDF) plane at the Buffalo Range Airport near Chiredzi, a town about 430km southeast of the capital, Harare. The exports follow the relocation of rhinos to Botswana from South Africa.
“We agreed that we’d send 20 black rhinos to them as part of conservation efforts within the region,” Zimbabwean Environment Secretary Prince Mupazviriho said in an interview. The remaining rhinos will be transported at a later date. Botswana has become a safe haven from poachers for the animals.
Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are ground into powder and sold as a putative cancer cure in Vietnam and China. Zimbabwe last exported them in the early 1990s, with Australia the destination, according to official records from the Ministry of Environment. A black rhino bull was exported to Botswana in the early 2000s.
The animals will be relocated to the Moremi Game Reserve, which was found to be suitable and where “the rhinos would be adequately protected post-release,” said Mark Saunders, the executive director of the Malilangwe Trust, which supplied the rhinos.