The Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province will reintroduce a maximum of 30 black rhinos in 2020. The animals will be sourced from other wildlife areas in Zimbabwe such as Malilangwe Trust, Bubye Valley Conservancy, and Save Conservancy.
Black Rhino are more rare than the larger White Rhino however Zimbabwe has managed an increase in the number of Black Rhino through careful investment into large privately owned estates such as those mentioned. What is of interest is the success of some of the wildlife areas managed with a combination of hunting and photographic tourism in order to keep the areas viable and well stocked with the correct blend of species. Many wildlife enthusiasts around the world misunderstand the importance of giving the wildlife areas full value and this often means including hunting as a solution in the less known areas that are not visited by the standard photographic tourists.
Whilst Malilangwe Trust is predominantly a photographic estate both the Bubye Valley Conservancy and the Save Valley Conservancy are predominantly hunting areas. There is no hunting of Black Rhino allowed in Zimbabwe and so none taking place in these estates, the pristine wildlife habitat maintained through both hunting and photographic tourism ensure that the rhino are able to not just survive but increase in numbers. It is also often the case that the hunting operators are the ones paying for the protection of the rhino through funding of well-trained anti-poaching units.
The Gonarezhou National Park is managed by the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GCT), a new model for protected area management drawn up between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). The numbers of Black Rhino originally found in the GNP dropped drastically due to poaching in the 80’s and 90’s it is believed now with the partnership that the park will be able to protect these valuable animals and hopefully the numbers will increase in the years ahead.
GCT said security in GNP has attained such a level that a rhino reintroduction project has become feasible.
“Manpower levels are at an all-time high, with more than 90 patrols deployed in the park per month, all monitored in real-time through a park-wide digital radio network.
“Law enforcement monitoring is being done through data collection by ranger patrols which are inputted into the Park’s SMART database, which has been fully operational since 2014 and allows for a clear understanding of the trends in the nature and spatial distribution of threat and the effectiveness and coverage of ranger patrols.
“GCT makes use of two aircraft to monitor and support ranger patrols, execute aerial patrols as well as undertake bi-annual wildlife surveys.”
It says to prevent the rhinos from straying into neighboring Mozambique, a low 3-strand electric fence will be erected around the rhino sanctuary that will allow for movement (under or over) for most other species.
Gonarezhou is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), which also includes South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Mozambique’s Gaza National Park. GLTP is home to more than 500 species of birds, 147 species of mammals, at least 116 species of reptiles, 34 species of frogs, and 49 species of fish.