The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
This week saw the start of one of the largest wildlife translocation projects that Africa has ever seen, whereby 7 500 animals will find a new home in the 4 000 km² Zinave National Park in Mozambique over the next three years, coming from other protected areas in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This mammoth project is a collaboration between the three governments, as partners to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), of which Zinave is an important component. Mr Wilfried Pabst, owner of Sango Wildlife Conservancy in the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe has committed to donate 6 000 of these animals over the next three years, of which the Zimbabwe government has agreed to the translocation of the first 2 000 this year. A further 500 animals will be sourced from Gorongosa National Park, where sufficient numbers of wildlife have been built up through the partnership between the government of Mozambique and the Gorongosa Restoration Project, while 50 elephants will be donated from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in South Africa.
Says Dr Bartolomeu Soto, Director-General of the National Administration for Conservation Areas: ‘We are realising the dream that we started when our countries signed the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park Treaty in 2002. We are grateful to the government of Zimbabwe and the donors for their tremendous support for giving a critical protected area a second chance. In particular our thanks goes to Peace Parks Foundation as a long-standing partner and supporter of conservation and development in Mozambique.’
Over the next three years, hundreds of buffalo, eland, giraffe, impala, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra and elephant will be brought into Zinave National Park in a project spearheaded by Peace Parks Foundation, which is also funding the translocation costs. The animals will first be released into a fenced 18 500 hectare sanctuary and later into the core development area of the park.
The development of Zinave as an integral component of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), was initiated by the government of Mozambique and gained momentum with the signing of a renewable 10-year co-management agreement between the Mozambican National Administration for Conservation Areas and Peace Parks Foundation in September 2015. The key objectives of the agreement include the rehabilitation of the park, restocking it, improving the protection of the park’s wildlife and forests, training and building the capacity of the park staff, developing park management infrastructure, creating an environment attractive to tourists and providing support to communities living adjacent to the park. Zinave is ideally situated close to one of Mozambique’s tourism development nodes, the Vilanculos-Bazaruto Archipelago, and once restocked and developed, could become sought-after by tourists as a big five wildlife destination close to the coast.
Zinave boasts an excellent wildlife habitat and used to harbour a wide diversity of animals. It was declared a national park in 1972, specifically to conserve large species such as giraffe. Until the mid-1970s, it was an oasis for huge herds of animals. Then the country descended into a protracted civil war during which virtually the entire animal population was wiped out.
Banhine, Limpopo and Zinave national parks are important Mozambican components of the Great Limpopo TFCA and part of the larger landscape linking the various river systems. Critical to the attainment of the conservation goals and targets in Mozambique is to ensure ecological connectivity between these three core conservation areas. With wildlife dispersal areas between these parks, the communities are set to benefit through increased tourism development and employment, as well as community conservancies, where desired. Great Limpopo TFCA has Limpopo, Kruger and Gonarezhou national parks at its core and straddles the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Says Willy Pabst, owner of Sango Wildlife Conservancy: ‘We at Sango Wildlife Conservancy are proud to support the Initiative ReWild. For us this relocation is the perfect example how conservation in Africa works.’
Says Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation: ‘Rewilding is a wonderful reverse to the decimation of ecosystems that is happening worldwide and Peace Parks Foundation is very pleased to be part of it. Restoring large landscapes and ecosystems is what transfrontier conservation in southern Africa is all about and this is a very concrete example. We thank the donors for their tremendous generosity in providing 7 500 animals to Zinave National Park and supporting its development.’