A crowd of over 500 people full of excitement and smiles, emotion and tears, welcomed the rhinos into Serengeti yesterday at approximately 4pm local time.
An array of events preceded their arrival complete with a marching band from TANAPA, dancers from various villages nearby, a theatrical dance group from Dar es Salaam and visitors from around the world.
Together they shared a beautifully prepared bush smart lunch with the President of Tanzania and awaited patiently for the Hercules to touch down.
At 3:46pm the Hercules made contact on the HF radio with FZS’s pilot, Felix Borner, who provided them with local landing conditions and then notified the crowd that they were moments away from being in sight at Seronera.
All eyes gazed upwards as the Hercules came into sight. Its robust build was a reminder of the contents it carried on board. They landed smoothly sending a rumble across the airstrip as they kicked up dust and came to a stop.
It was a magnificent sight and as the loading dock opened, the excitement continued to build. Dr. Pete Morkel stepped out first smiling and ready to unload the animals. They were under his care for the previous few weeks and during their journey en route to Tanzania.
Thanks to TANAPA, Singita and our own crew at FZS, the rhinos were all offloaded quickly and efficiently. The President of Tanzania graciously accepted the handover from the South Africa National Parks stating “I thank the government of South Africa for accepting our request to relocate 32 black rhinos – they have been generous to give us 32”.
In response to current resource control efforts, the president highlighted that “Because of their being in danger, the rhinos are the only animals in our game parks that have bodyguards, 24 hours a day,” and then he ended jokingly, “Just like me here”.
There are few words to mark the significance of the event and the excitement that will continue from here out – both for conservation efforts in the Serengeti and the increase in resource protection for the park. As the first rhino stepped out of its crate and touched the Serengeti soil, a transition for the days ahead was set in the sand.
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