WHITE RHINO’S RETURN TO ZIMBABWE THANKS TO IMVELO’S COMMUNITY RHINO CONSERVATION INITIATIVE
White rhinos return to Zimbabwe thanks to an important conservation initiative by Imvelo Safari Lodges.
The company created the Imvelo’s Community Rhino Conservation Initiative which has successfully brought back two white rhinos to Hwange National Park.
White rhino’s were an easy target and the original populations were eliminated from Zimbabwe in the early 1900’s. After almost disappearing, the species was successfully reintroduced to Southern Africa in the 1950’s and 1960’s. All went well until poaching took off again in the 1970’s.
Zimbabwe Hwange National Park experienced how poaching decimated the rhino population. From a herd of 120 white rhinos in the 1970’s and 80’s, by 2007 there was not one single animal left in the park. Similar stories occurred across Africa.
Imvelo’s Community Rhino Conservation Initiative (CRCI) was conceived to reintroduce white rhino’s to Hwange National Park– providing better protection this time. The community living on the south eastern edge of the Park were already conservation conscious. Imvelo Safari Lodges’ concept was to establish highly protected rhino sanctuaries on community land bordering the Park. This would be the catalyst for a bigger conservancy and buffer zone between the park and the community, supporting local people through gate entry fees, jobs, increased tourism and reduced human wildlife conflict.
Imvelo’s project was a success as the company finally brought white rhino back to Zimbabwe Hwange National Park after more than 15 years!
The animals came from Malilangwe in south eastern Zimbabwe. Malilangwe is a private conservancy /ranch on the boundary of Gona Re Zhou National Park, which has the largest population of rhino in Zimbabwe and were the source of high-profile translocations to Botswana a few years ago.
Two white rhinos to admire after 15 years at Hwange National Parks
After a journey of 17+ hours and 700+ kilometers across Zimbabwe, the first two white rhino to roam Hwange in over 15 years are now settling into their new home in the Imvelo Ngamo Wildlife Sanctuary bordering the park. The two rhinos, Thuza and Kusasa, represent a bright future for village children and grandchildren.
This historic translocation is one pf the most exciting conservation projects in Africa today, as the rhino is arguably the most endangered large African mammal. Imvelo’s Community Rhino Conservation Initiative (CRCI) also represents a massive paradigm shift. Instead of having rhinos protected in a government park or in private hands, the CRCI is placing rhino on community land with the local communities as custodians.
The CRCI is also about creating a self-sustaining buffer zone on Hwange’s boundary to protect one of Africas great Parks and the communities who live around it.
The first two animals are just a beginning; The core conservation concept developed by Imvelo is to create several ‘mini-sanctuaries’ – these will be small 200-500 ha intensively protected areas each with 2 – 10 rhino. Once they are functioning and observers are comfortable that management and protection is acceptable, these can be linked together to create a larger conservancy of around 30-50 free ranging rhino in 30-50,000 ha that then creates a self-sustaining viable wildlife conservancy on community land that is also a buffer zone with the Park to prevent and mitigate human wildlife conflict.
Benefiting local communities
To highlight the necessity for communities to protect the precious white rhinos, self-protection of the animals has been created. Imvelo’s project includes special scouts’ training which is open only to young men from the neighbouring villages. Those who pass selection undergo rigorous training to British military standards. Named the “Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit”, the 25 men are well equipped to protect the animals and are turning into local heroes.
The creation of the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative provides local communities financial benefits . Rhino viewing fees from tourists visiting Imvelo Safari Lodges generate social and economic returns to go back into these communities, with 70% of total funds generated from the rhino going back to the communities. The rhino experience is currently only available to guests staying at Imvelo’s Bomani or Camelthorn Lodges. Conditions apply depending of the choice of the accommodation.
The rhino activity typically lasts about two hours, though it can extend well beyond that for visitors that become immersed in the CRCI story. How the activity takes shape remains subject to conditions on the ground. But what ever the experience, visitors will find inspiration in this success story which finaly brought back one of Africa’s most iconic animals in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.