By Gay Matambo
AS part of strides to restore bio-diversity through reintroduction of locally extinct species, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Frankfurt Zoological Society are in the process of re-introducing the critically endangered black rhino to Gonarezhou National Park.
According to the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, the last of original black rhino population was killed in the 1940s due to overhunting.
A re-introduction programme conducted between 1969 to 1977 brought 77 black rhinos from the Zambezi valley to Gonarezhou but the national park reportedly lost its black rhino for a second time in 1994 resulting in a tragic, second extinction.
The Minister of Environment, Climate Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Honourable Mangaliso Ndlovu noted that the goal of the reintroduction process is to establish a new and viable population of the critically endangered black rhino.
We have taken the steps of creating innovative partnerships that provide support for our conservation efforts in Zimbabwe and we can see the fruits of our partnerships today through these actions,he said.
Speaking to ZBC News Gonarezhou Conservation Trust Director Mr Van Der Westhuizen said more than twenty black rhinos have been released into the park lately with the animals expected to grow into an International Union for Conservation Nature Classified Key 1 Black Rhino population.
There has been an absence of black rhinos at Gonarezhou National Park for 27 years and with support from government and our private partners it was possible to re-introduce a viable population of black rhinos into the park,he said.
Zimparks officials Mr Mpofu and Mr Farawo say a detailed security plan has been put in place at the national park, adding that the presence of the black rhinos at Gonarezhou will boost the country’s tourism sector.
This time around we are going to be able to safeguard our rhinos. We have retrained our rangers and ensured that they are well equipped. We are also using modern technology to track the rhinos.
This is good for us and good for our tourism. It raises the profile of the park and apart from that rhinos are a major draw card for tourist and now our second biggest park now boasts of all the big five,they said.
The reintroduced black rhinos came from Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Bubye Valley Conservancy and Save Valley Conservancy.
The relocation of these animals is being done under the guidance of an expert team comprising experienced ecologists and veterinarians.