After spending his entire life at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, an eight-year-old east African black rhino is getting acclimated to his new home in east Africa.
Eric was selected to be translocated to Tanzania through a program designed to save animals, like the African black rhino, from extinction.
No longer able to breed with species in the United States due to an oversaturation of his genetics, he was donated by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (SDZSP) to the United Republic of Tanzania to promote breeding within the Serengeti ecosystem.
There are currently fewer than 5,000 black rhinos left on the planet due to the effects of poaching, according to San Diego Zoo Global.
It is estimated that there are currently 50 to 100 black rhinos in the Serengeti ecosystem. SDZSP and Singita Grumeti staff are looking forward to what Eric's arrival could bring.
"There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for what Eric’s arrival means for rhino conservation in Tanzania,” Singita Grumeti Fund executive director Stephen Cunliffe said.
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The SDZSP made gradual steps to get Eric ready for his new home. His diet was slowly switched from pellets to leaves from bushes and trees -- what he will be eating in the wild.
His habitat in the United States was shared with cape buffalo, antelope, giraffes and others; in Tanzania, Eric will be introduced to elephants and zebras.
The 2,550-pound rhino was transported in a cargo plane from Los Angeles to Serengeti National Park Airport. Eric and the SDZSP team underwent months of positive reinforcement training to prepare him for the move and he was accompanied by trainers along the journey.
"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," SDZSP curator Steve Metzler said.
Once Eric is acclimated to his new home at Singita Grumeti, a 350,000-acre private landscape that works with conservation groups, he will be introduced to a female rhino named Laikipia.
SDZSP and Singita Grumeti hope to have Eric roam free -- as a wild black rhino -- in less than two years.