Zimbabwe’s Elephants Are Dying, But Its Rhinos Are Doing Better

By Oscar Nkala

The number of rhinos killed by poachers in Zimbabwe spiked to 164 in 2008. In 2014, poachers killed 15 rhinos in Zimbabwe—including five black rhinos in Save Valley and one white rhino in Bubye Valley.

This year, fewer than ten have been killed for their horns, sold illegally in Vietnam and other Asian countries for their imagined medicinal and other powers.

Zimbabwe’s rhino population, estimated at 766 in 2014, is the continent’s fourth largest after South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia. (Some 2,200 rhinos roamed Zimbabwe in 1999.)

The dramatic reduction in the killings is because 90 percent of the country’s rhinos have been removed from high-risk poaching areas to Intensive Conservation Zones, says Johnny Rodriguez , chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. These secure zones are essentially protected breeding areas in selected game reserves.

The protected breeding areas are in Matobo, Bubye Valley, Save Valley, Hwange (Sinamatella Camp), Sebakwe, Chivero, Malilangwe, and Imire Conservancies.

Conservation groups, alarmed about the decimation of the country’s rhinos, stepped up the relocation of the surviving animals from high-risk poaching areas to safe zones.

“High security has drastically reduced poaching,” Rodriguez says. “More births are still being recorded.”

Fatalities dropped from 66 in 2012 to 20 in 2013 and only six in 2014. Eight rhinos have been poached since January 2015—far fewer than the new births recorded at the country’s main breeding centers, in Save and Bubye Valley Conservancies.

Both sanctuaries are run by the Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT), a local conservation group that now protects 90 percent of Zimbabwean rhinos in partnership with the U.S.-based International Rhino Fund (IRF).

In a recent statement, the IRF said the lowveld rhino program owes its success to translocation, tracking, monitoring and anti-poaching efforts, as well as the treatment and rehabilitation of rhinos.

According to the IRF, 100 rhinos had been born in Bubye —> Read More