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Rhino and Hwange

The history of rhino in Hwange and our vision for the future

Imvelo will be bringing rhino back to Hwange soon – so we wanted to share with you the history of rhino in Hwange and our vision for the future prior to their arrival.

The history of the ‘white’ or square-lipped rhino in southern Africa is one of setbacks and successes following each other in waves for the last two hundred years. Once widespread, the southern white rhino was thought to be extinct by the early Twentieth Century. The last record of one in the land now called Zimbabwe was in 1895. Then a remnant population which might have been as few as 20 was discovered in Umfolozi, now the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in the 1920s. Protection in what can boast to be the oldest game reserve in Africa allowed the species to recover, to be followed by reintroductions to its former range throughout the region in the second half of the century.

Between 1962 and 1975, 140 white rhino were translocated to Zimbabwe; by 1975 there were 150 surviving in the country, and the programme was regarded as a success. Specifically in the Hwange area, 35 white rhino were released in 1966-67 – by 1975 the population was estimated at 40 and growing. Then a perfect storm of poaching of both black and white rhino rolled down the continent in the late 20th Century, once again eradicating white rhino from Hwange.

Today, small populations survive elsewhere in Zimbabwe’s Parks estate, but by far the greater number is under intensive protection on private land. So successful have some of these projects been, that the population has reached the carrying capacity of the areas, and translocation to new ranges is once again underway. One of these projects – the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in south-east Zimbabwe – is the source of the two white rhino which will initiate our new Hwange population.

The long-term vision for our Community Rhino Conservation Initiative (CRCI) programme falls into three phases. The first phase involved the development of a 200 ha sanctuary as a secure home for the first two white rhino, where they can adapt to their new environment. In the medium term, phase two will be the development of several other similar sanctuaries of 200 – 500 ha along the southern border of Hwange National Park. The third phase will see all these smaller sanctuaries combined into one large protected area or conservancy, creating a buffer zone between the Park and the community. This will minimize human-wildlife conflict and maximise potential for socio-economic development based on tourism.

This is an extremely exciting time for the Imvelo team around the world, and we will be sharing more updates as our rhino arrive in the coming days. This is a momentous achievement for Hwange and for our future guests to have a meaningful impact on the communities who have taken the leap to be part of this ground-breaking conservation initiative.

And on a final note, what magnificent news that our guests staying at Bomani or Camelthorn will now have the opportunity to potentially see the Big 5 – something we have not been able to say since 2005!

Contact us for more information about our Community Rhino Conservation Initiative


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