By Charity M. Kimathi
A significant decline in rhino population at Mkomazi National Park (MNP), which used to host about nine black rhinos per square kilometre, is due to increased demand for rhino horns, which are needed for making traditional dagger handles and its purported medicinal properties, it has been revealed.
According to the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) Director, Mr General Allan Kijazi, such a drop in the rhino population is perpetrated by poachers, adding that the last rhino was seen in Pangalo area, Mkomazi, in 1985.
However, he said, in recognition of the importance of the rhino species, in 1989 the government of Tanzania invited the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust to re-introduce and establish breeding programmes for the highly endangered black rhinos and the African wilddog at MNP.
“The Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary is part of Tanzania’s initiatives to breed black rhinos and recover their numbers. There are also other animals like giraffes, elands, lesser kudus and large and small cats,” he said.
Mr Kijazi revealed that translocation initiatives and the breeding programme were in three phases in which the first phase four rhinos had been successfully moved to MNP from Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa in 1997 followed by other four rhinos from the same park in 2001.