Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

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A container holding one of the five zoo-born eastern black rhinos is lowered by crane into an enclosure being released in Akagera National Park, eastern Rwanda. (AFP)
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A black rhinoceros, that was shipped to Rwanda from Zoo Safari Park Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic, is seen inside its pen at the Akagera National Park, in eastern Rwanda. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2019

Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

  • There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said
  • In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million

KIGALI: Rhino keepers who successfully delivered five endangered black rhinos to Rwanda spent months hugging and coddling them inside their transport boxes to prepare them for the journey, a rhino handler said as the animals were freed on Monday.
The two male and three female eastern black rhinoceroses were flown from Safari Park Dour Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic, where they had been getting to know each other after arriving from separate European parks.
“The preparation process took several months. It started in autumn last year when two animals were brought here from Denmark and England. They started to bond, which always takes weeks because black rhinos are very alert and nervous animals,” said rhino handler Jaromir Sejnoha from the Dvur Kralove Safari Park.
“In the final phase (of preparations) the rhino is trained to stay inside the box for several minutes. We feed them and hug them in there, so they aren’t scared of the box and become accustomed to it, and so on the day of transportation they don’t get nervous and the whole transportation goes smoothly.”
There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said. The new arrivals mean Rwanda is home to 25 of them.
Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner in the East African nation, home to mountain gorillas and the so-called “Big Five” African game animals — lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, and leopard.
“Every year our tourism numbers are going up and bringing these rhinos I am sure will help,” Gruner said.
The park received 44,000 visitors who generated over $2 million last year, Gruner said.
In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million. Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, said 2018 numbers were not yet ready due to a change of methodology.
The push for tourist dollars in not without controversy. The government’s 2018 deal to pay British football club Arsenal £30 million ($38 million) to have “Visit Rwanda” emblazoned on the team’s jersey was criticized by politicians in some donor nations who questioned whether it was a good use of money by a government still heavily dependent on foreign aid.


US sprinter beats Usain Bolt’s 200m world record - but only runs 185m

Updated 10 July 2020

US sprinter beats Usain Bolt’s 200m world record - but only runs 185m

  • Lyles was racing alone against competitors simultaneously sprinting on tracks in Europe.

LONDON: For a few fleeting minutes, US sprinter Noah Lyles thought he had broken the long-standing 200 meter world record at the Inspiration Games on Thursday.

Lyles, 22, is the 200m world champion and his time of 18.90 seconds would have smashed the 19.19 mark set by Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt in 2009.

But the headline time will not go into the history books after it was revealed he only ran 185 meters due to a blunder by the event organizers putting the starting line in the wrong place.

Lyles was racing alone against competitors simultaneously sprinting on tracks in Europe.

His staggering time was immediately challenged by commentators watching the event.

“You can’t be playing with my emotions like this....Got me in the wrong lane smh,” he tweeted. He later tweeted again to correct himself, saying he had in fact started on the wrong line. 

The farcical ending to one of the headline races in the event will be an embarrassment for the organizers who were banking on showing the world that technology can make a major international athletics event possible despite the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.