Kat Fox and myself have just spent over a month observing and monitoring the movements of white and black rhinos at Imire Conservation reserve in Zimbabwe. In that time we’ve experienced first hand the potential conflicts between humans and wildlife in Africa.
Imire is an hour south of Harare, and is well protected by a determined anti-poaching patrol team. The reserve is teeming with wildlife due to the conservation efforts of the patrols ensuring both visitor safety but more importantly the safety of the white and black rhinos that are a part of their breeding program.
Since 1985, they’ve successfully bred and released 14 black rhino back into national parks in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, all of those rhino have been killed by poachers for their horns. Rhino horn is made from keratin, the same material as our fingernails and hair. The horns have no proven scientific medicinal purposes whatsoever, but are still highly prized for traditional medicines in some countries.
Imire also suffered an attack on the park in 2007, which resulted in the deaths of five more black rhinos, and one being orphaned. The young orphan goes by the Shöna name of Tatenda (meaning ‘Thank You’) and is now leading the charge of their black rhino breeding program. The female he’s been paired with has just returned a positive pregnancy test!
Despite all the setbacks over the years the team here at Imire are more determined than ever to save Rhinos from extinction. What we have experienced over here has made us realise just how important breeding programs are, both over here in Africa, and in places like Werribee Open Range Zoo (with it’s newly born white rhino calf ‘Kipenzi’) to preserve these iconic, shy herbivores for future generations.
Rhinos are beautiful animals!