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Thuza and Kusasa, hope for the future

Updates on local perspectives on the rhino and the Initiative

By Target Ndlovu

The two bulls have created a larger impact on our community than ever imagined. They managed to satisfy the community’s developmental curiosity within a very short space of time. This initiative has led the community to ask for more and prompted the creation of sanctuary number two.


The Cobras perspective

Spending nearly two years with Thuza and Kusasa has sharpened the Cobras Community Wildlife Protection scouts’ skills. It has made us feel that everything we learnt during training, is very important. With Mlevu sanctuary number two (“Tango Charlie”) complete and ready for rhino, we are keen to expand our operations and be active in the conservation of more rhinos. Regardless of the size of sanctuary number two, our man power has been increased so that we can handle all pressures. This means more skills, new ideas, more effort, and less risks and losses to be incurred. The newly trained group of men has been prepared to join the rest of us Cobras for all the tough tasks lying ahead. Their minds are now more oriented to the job and ready for zero tolerance towards poaching. For the sake of our community, our wildlife, our heritage; each and every individual is prepared to give in his very best so to achieve a highly secured conservation environment.

Apart from being on the fore-front of this incredible conservation project, we as Cobras are also providing basic needs for ourselves and our families. The project provides each and every one of us with a job, a most important benefit that most of the young people in our area not getting nowadays.

The Cobras have developed an amazing bond with Thuza and Kusasa. From the way they relax when scouts are around them, anyone can tell that these two animals have adapted to their new home. Though cautious about it, the scouts utilise this opportunity to examine the rhinos closely. It is the most crucial time to note injuries, to tell whether the animals have ticks or anything that can make their lives unbearable. This closeness has created a very intimate bond between the scouts and these rhinos. None the less, as scouts we still respect the rhino’s territories. We observe rules that do not violate, change or alter their habitat. We have come to appreciate that they are part of our lives.

Aside from their grazing patterns and territorial rules, we have learnt that rhinos do some things to keep themselves in a good mood. Sparing is the most interesting thing that we have witnessed. Wallowing also brings a sense appeasement to them. They think about their surroundings and respond to the nearby environment. It is an amazing sight to observe. The previous year has seen these two beasts attracting more than a thousand guests. We have no doubt that this year and more years to come the numbers are going to go up.

To add on to our security team, we have got two amazing trained malinois dogs; Ragnar and Whisper. These have added to the team a very useful skill. They have shown to be good trackers and as scouts we have managed to learn a few things from them.  The first being the importance of time in tracking. We have also learnt that being accurate on spoors produces good results. Ragnar and Whisper have created a great opportunity for the scouts to learn more about dogs and they are definitely a welcome addition to the Unit. It is not an easy thing to just handle a dog as big as Ragnar but we are slowly learning from our fellow handlers who have been trained and are in turn very generous in sharing all their knowledge on handling. Everyone likes to find opportunities so that they may spend some time with either Ragnar or Whisper. They are really amazing animals, let alone very useful to our work. In short we now have a very big security family which I would love to see continue to grow with both more man-and dog- power.


Personally as a scout, Mlevu sanctuary number 2 means a lot to me. As a resident of Mlevu village, I see our sanctuary as a basket of opportunities. Youngsters have the chance to prove that they can serve their community through working as scouts in all the sanctuaries. The programs that will be created are going to improve the infrastructure of the community, schools, and lifestyle with more guests visiting the area. I’m excited that I get to more proactively share what I do with my family at Mlevu.  


School Children’s perspective

School children have enjoyed trips to sanctuary number one so that they can watch and learn from the Cobras scouts and discover more about Thuza and Kusasa. They have seen their future with their own eyes and now they have a good idea what conservation means. The school children have interacted with their brothers, uncles and fathers (the Scouts) while on duty. This has just inspired them to try to work towards protecting wildlife. It has also sparked a lot of interest towards nature and it has taught them to channel their efforts towards doing what is best for their community. They continue to do drill displays and imitate Cobras physical fitness sessions they have seen while playing during school breaks. Their mind-set is continuing to change from a subsistence poaching lifestyle to the one of a conservationist. It has also made them believe that they can still get a job as scouts or lodge attendants and many other jobs in the tourism sector near their communities. Sanctuary number two raises hopes for more children along Hwange National Park’s southern boundary. School children from both Ngamo Primary and Secondary as well as Mlevu Primary have enjoyed direct benefit from the current sanctuary and it is a hope for every school child in the area to access such benefits as the second sanctuary becomes fully operational and accommodates rhinos.


The Community perspective

Apart from enjoying the close interaction with nature, people around sanctuary 1 have come to understand the value of conserving nature. The community clinic is one of the major improvements by the Initiative for the community. Community clubs bring community members together to appreciate Thuza and Kusasa. The minds of the people is on the future. They also encourage the Cobras scouts to work tirelessly for themselves and the community. The Cobras Scouts continue to represent the protectors of the community’s economy, with rhino and wildlife bringing tourism to the area. The community members engage in the upbringing of the second sanctuary both directly and indirectly. The second sanctuary has created jobs and a  hub for knowledge sharing as community members will get the opportunity to learn about the Rhinos. The community members are willing to work hand and glove with all the stakeholders of community rhino conservation initiative so that in the end, all the set goals could be achieved, developments in communities will mapped and completed, lifestyles improved and the natural habitat protected. Sanctuary number two and its impressive fencing answers one of the biggest questions that had been bothering people, especially those living in the communities on the southern side of the National Park; human wildlife conflict.  The sanctuary fence prevents animals like lions, elephants and hyenas from going into the villages and attacking people’s livestock and destroying their crops. More people from other villages are now are excitedly waiting to be part of the Initiative and enjoy the benefits of carrying out daily chores without any fears of wildlife.

Recently, traditional leaders and the Minister of Environment, Climate and Wildlife - the Honourable Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu -  gathered around Ngamo sanctuary one to officially commission the sanctuary. With the input of the government, the people have more faith in what they are choosing to do with their land and in its opportunities. It means there is a lot of respect between all stakeholders that partner to develop the area for both people and wildlife. It is not just about one person or a certain group of people making decisions about wildlife but collective decisions are made. It was such a great honour to have a detail like the Minister to come to our own Tsholotsho grounds and grace us with his presence on such a special occasion!


Thuza and Kusasa have drawn a lot of excitement and eagerness for a transformed community. Communities are willing to protect and be part of the efforts made to ensure that the Initiative lives on and continues to play this important role to sustain the villages around. Everyone, including school children and the Cobras scouts look forward to a brighter future on both the developmental and conservation sides.

For more information about the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative, contact us here


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