Zimbabwe Lowveld Rhino Program
IRF works with local partner, The Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT), to protect and grow Zimbabwe’s largest population of black rhinos through monitoring and anti-poaching efforts, combined with treating, rehabilitating and translocating rhinos as needed.
Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest black rhino population after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. Organized gangs of poachers slaughtered nearly one-quarter of the country’s rhinos between 2007 and 2009, and poaching remains the greatest threat today driven primarily by demand from Asian markets, particularly Vietnam and China.
Formerly degraded land that was converted from cattle ranges to wildlife management areas, Zimbabwe’s Lowveld region is now home to nearly 90% of the country’s rhino population. These large land tracts operate as wildlife-based businesses that help safeguard a variety of threatened species.
LRT implements a comprehensive conservation program that support anti-poaching efforts, tracks and monitors rhinos, treats injured rhinos, rehabilitates and returns injured young rhinos to the wild, translocates rhinos from high-risk areas to safer locations, and works with local communities to build support for rhino conservation.
Rhino Operations in Zimbabwe
Our annual operations in the conservancies include:
- Providing logistical support and training for anti-poaching patrols (including collecting evidence and assisting with legal cases when necessary);
- Tracking and monitoring rhinos on a continual basis to ensure their safety;
- Performing annual management operations, such as ear-notching rhinos for easy identification;
- Continuing intensive monitoring of these populations;
- Treating rhinos with injuries suffered due to poaching or natural causes;
- Working with conservancy partners to rescue, rehabilitate and return injured or orphaned young rhinos to the wild;
- Protecting rhinos from poachers by translocating animals from high-risk areas to safer locations; and
- Working with local communities to build support for rhino conservation through education and employment.
Latest News from Zimbabwe
Over 50 rhinos were killed by poachers in Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) in early 2019. This heavy poaching pressure resulted in population declines for both black and white rhino populations there. Responding to the increased threat, Bubye Valley Conservancy dramatically increased its anti-poaching efforts. At the same time LRT also stepped-up rhino monitoring efforts.
COVID-19 related travel restrictions in Zimbabwe have contributed to a significant decrease of poaching incursions in Bubye Valley. Increased protection and monitoring activities were able to be maintained during the pandemic. The combination has resulted in a population increase of 13.8% for black rhinos in Bubye Valley during the first 6 months of 2020.
Regular rhino operations are important to rhino population health as well. IRF’s local partner in Zimbabwe, in 2019 LRT immobilized 81 black and white rhinos in BVC for various medical and conservation purposes. 29 were ear-notched for identification, 50 were dehorned to remove poaching incentive, 21 were fitted with horn transmitters, and 20 were translocated to “safer” areas during the year. Six rhinos were also treated for poaching-related injuries. 2020 operations have been postponed due to COVID-19, however there is hope that they can be restarted by the end of the year.
African rhinos can benefit from greater collaboration to combat poaching across borders. LRT is working with TRAFFIC, a leading nonprofit organization combating illegal wildlife trade, to manage wildlife crime data. LRT also met with the Acting Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe to discuss joint Chinese-Zimbabwean investigations of wildlife crime syndicates. Partnerships like these will provide long term solutions to protecting white and black rhinos in Zimbabwe.