San Diego Zoo gifts black rhino to Tanzanian wildlife preserve

Eric, an 8-year-old male black rhino, settles into his new home at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. The 2,550-pound rhino was transported by cargo plane from Los Angeles to Serengeti National Park Airport, accompanied by animal care staff from both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Singita Grumeti. The rhino has been gifted to the government and the people of the United Republic of Tanzania to promote breeding of the critically endangered black rhino within the greater Serengeti ecosystem. (Photo taken on Sept. 11, 2018 byKen Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global)

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo Monday announced it sent an east African black rhino to the United Republic of Tanzania to promote black rhino breeding in the Serengeti.

The rhino, Eric, is 8 years old and was born at the zoo’s Safari Park in 2010. His new home will be the 350,000-acre Singita Grumeti concession, which is working with Tanzanian government officials and wildlife researchers to raise the population of the critically endangered species.

Staff from the Safari Park and Singita Grumeti accompanied Eric on a flight from Los Angeles to Serengeti National Park Airport. Staff at Singita Grumeti plan to introduce Eric to a female rhino named Laikipia in two to three months, and the two will share a 682-acre protected area.

“Our months of preparation for Eric’s travel prepared him very well and the transport could have not gone any better,” said the Safari Park’s mammal curator, Steve Metzler. “He was eating well along the journey and he has arrived safely and settled in very quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

Safari Park staff prepared Eric for the move by getting him acclimated to his travel crate and changing his diet from zoo food like pellets and hay to leaves and other flora that black rhinos eat in the wild. Singita Grumeti staff will monitor Eric in his new habitat with a tracking device as they coax him into living as a wild rhino.

Only 740 eastern black rhinos remain in the wild.

“There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for what Eric’s arrival means for rhino conservation in Tanzania,” said Stephen Cunliffe, executive director of the Singita Grumeti Fund. “He will be slowly acclimated to his new surroundings and we hope within 12 to 18 months he will be a wild, free-ranging black rhino.”