The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
In a year of renewed global environmental goal setting, Peace Parks continued to lay down a clear pathway towards ever stronger, more expansive connections between people and nature. We made considerable impact within the African landscape – reaffirming the relevant role we have to play in contributing to developing transboundary landscapes through our unique focus on conservation at scale.
The scope and connectivity of our work with people, wildlife and great spaces through a holistic approach is more important now than ever before. We returned numerous species to landscapes to restore their crucial ecosystem roles and collective contributions to rebuilding a less vulnerable, more stable planet. We saw ecological linkages between protected areas expand – key to opening the natural, intuitive movement of wildlife and the resultant restorative benefits.
The biggest highlight of the year was undoubtedly the successful reintroduction of both black and white rhino to Zinave National Park in Mozambique. Not only are both keystone species now able to re-establish healthy, restorative populations in their former native range, but their return after more than four decades of absence bestows upon Zinave the honour of Mozambique’s first “Big 5” national park. Zinave, a vital component of the Great Limpopo transboundary landscape, has come alive through a long-term co-management agreement between the Mozambique Government’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and Peace Parks, sitting now on the verge of becoming one of Africa’s most celebrated wilderness destinations.
The ultimate cause for pride was the birth of a perfect little calf within two weeks of their landing on new home turf. Named Princesa by President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, she is a beacon of rewilding hope and a testament to the great and ongoing care invested in the operation – for which we thank all of those involved. The first in a series rhino of translocations still to follow, this initiative is the result of a partnership between ANAC, Peace Parks and Exxaro Resources, in support of and in collaboration with the Governments of Mozambique and South Africa, and supported by the German Postcode Lottery and MAVA Foundation. Thank you also to De Beers, GEOS Foundation, Pon Bike and Biofund for their continued support in the restoration of Zinave National Park.
Another species introduced to Zinave and Maputo National Park this year in sufficient numbers for founder populations was the majestic eland, whilst 400 game animals representing seven different species were translocated to Simalaha Community Conservancy’s wildlife sanctuary. It is so gratifying to know that the places which received such wildlife boosts, and which form integral parts of transboundary protected areas, will sustain and restore the landscape dynamics of the larger ecosystem.
In Malawi, with the generous support of the German Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development through KfW, great strides have been made this year to rehabilitate the infrastructure in Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, both key components within the Malawi-Zambia transboundary landscape. In total, 136 staff houses and admin offices were renovated to dramatically improve the working conditions of all the park staff. A 70km solar-powered electric fence along the eastern boundary of Vwaza Marsh was also successfully completed to bring an end to the extensive human-elephant conflict. With the kind support of the EU and KfW, around Nyika and Vwaza 13,842 community members directly benefitted from a number of activities such as climate-smart agriculture, the production of high-value crops, the selling of produce through collective marketing and livestock production.
Blue Action Fund committed significant funding towards marine conservation and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods in the coastal communities adjacent to Maputo National Park, the Mozambique component of the Lubombo transboundary landscape. The prospects of this programme are beyond exciting: ecosystem-based adaptation approaches promise to restore resilience to mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass systems as well as enable communities to fish sustainably and benefit from reduced vulnerabilities and growing livelihoods.
Through funding from the Dutch and Swedish Postcode Lottery, MAVA Foundation, COmON Foundation, Commonland and various other donors, Peace Parks has been working alongside the people of Simalaha Community Conservancy in the Zambian component of the Kavango Zambezi transboundary landscape. The Conservancy made its own contribution to a particularly significant environmental narrative and shift this year, thanks to its innovative, impactful cookstove project. Carbon, and how to take it out of the atmosphere and store it naturally, long-term, has become one of the main topics of discussion globally. This is a story we are increasingly able to report on in ecosystems under our co-management which are known to perform crucial ‘carbon services’ – marshes, wetlands, mangroves and forests generating their own carbon currency.
In Simalaha, 10 000 stoves were distributed that deliver both climate and sustainable development impacts. Added to the reduction in firewood demands and emissions, the project is well on its way towards uplifting people through a new stream of income opportunity: turning any reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions into carbon credits, which can in turn be ‘sold’ for a monetary return to the communities. This year, Gold Standard registered the programme, enabling the first cookstove carbon sales. 74 000 Voluntary Emission Reduction (VERs) carbon credits were estimated to have been issued in 2022.
We express special thanks to Richemont for supporting the Limpopo National Park community development programme, and to MozBio, AFD (Agence Francaise de Developpement) and Fonds Francais pour l’Environnement Mondial for supporting Limpopo and Maputo national parks’ Herding 4 Health programme. The COmON Foundation also provided core support to the roll-out of Herding 4 Health across the region – a programme that is making remarkable strides in allowing communities to continue to live in a way that complements and enhances their traditional rangeland and livestock management techniques, and principles of co-existence, thereby assisting in the restoration of entire landscapes.
In the newly proclaimed Maputo National Park, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this month, experienced rapid development in 2022 supported by Hansjörg Wyss and the Reinet Foundation, bringing into being a vibrant tourism portfolio. From five-star accommodation to rugged 4×4 wilderness camps and – a personal favourite – the 80 bed eco- and family-friendly chalets at Membene Lodge, where great care has been taken to blend the infrastructure in seamlessly with the environment. 2023 will see this lodge opening as the latest tourism product in the park, a huge source of excitement for local communities thanks to increased employment prospects, and the knock-on benefits of regional economic growth.
The connection between successful conservation at scale, true partnerships and donor support is one which we were abundantly grateful for this year, as our aims and ambitions as an organisation grew. Partners with a shared passion and unique experience and expertise joined us in implementing impactful projects and programmes.
Generous funding from our anchor donors continued to make our landscape-level conservation approach possible. The Sophia Foundation generously invested in supporting the rangers in the parks where we work. This included providing incentives and rewards to rangers as well as enabling those who are managing teams to participate in a landmark ranger leadership and resilience training course, designed in collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College.
Also excelling in the field through his leadership and advocacy skills and being duly rewarded was Miguel Goncalves, the Park Warden of Maputo National Park – which is co-managed by Peace Parks and ANAC – as a recipient of the prestigious Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa. This accolade is bestowed annually on an individual judged to be an emerging conservation leader, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation and success in their chosen field. It’s a fitting acknowledgement of Miguel’s inspiring leadership in the park over the past 12 years.
Underpinning each one of our conservation wins, on all levels, have been the combined efforts of Peace Parks staff. Every member of the organisation showed unprecedented dedication to the work we do, and proved their own unique ability to honour our duties of care. We proudly received another Kudu Award from South African National Parks as a most valued partner, which speaks to the work of our teams as an integral role player in the conservation community.
The stand-out message from 2022, and a testament to the dedication of everyone in the organisation and their belief in what we do, was that we are on a true course. The future of nature, and ourselves, rests in co-existence with all living creatures on this planet we call home.
To each and every Friend of Peace Parks, I wish a restful and happy festive season.
Chief Executive Officer