Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Rhino Day. The purpose of the commemorations is to raise rhino conservation awareness. The commemorations which will be held in Bulawayo on the 21st of September will run under the theme “Rhino Leading the Charge Against Extinction”. The theme has been chosen because both rhino species are endangered as their numbers are very low. The reasons for the continued loss remain poaching and habitat loss. The first and second commemorations were held in Harare in 2011 and 2012.Bulawayo has been chosen as the venue for this year’s commemorations because a significant number of rhinos are found in that geographical region of Zimbabwe.
This year’s commemorations promise to be even bigger with a number of activities lined up in other parts of the country which include Imire Game Ranch, Kyle National Park, Chivero , Matopos and Hwange National Park. Activities to raise awareness on the rhino include fun run and walks, golf tournaments and game count.
The main event in Bulawayo will see stakeholders marching from Hard Square, which is behind the High Court and will end at the Centenary Centre. Stakeholders who will participate include rhino custodians and stakeholders, school children, army band, the police, the public and Parks officers. School children will come in as drum majorettes and will also provide entertainment, while Parks will also entertain through an anti-poaching display. Twalumba is going to lead the procession. Iyasa and Ingwenyama Traditional Group will also provide entertainment. The event will be capped by a key note address from the newly appointed Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Honorable Saviour Kasukuwere.
The Authority is grateful to rhino custodians for protecting the rhinos and to all stakeholders who have donated towards this year’s commemorations.
Zimbabwe has come up with a number of strategies to ensure protection of flagship species. The anti-poaching unit which is the back-bone of wildlife conservation with special attention to the endangered species such as the rhino, both black and white, and the elephant, has seen resources being deliberately channeled towards anti-poaching activities. Over the years a number of activities have been performed to protect the rhino which is poached for its horn which scientifically does not have any medicinal properties; it therefore remains a myth. The Authority deliberately created IPZ (Intensive Protection Zones) meant for the protection of rhinos. The Authority continuously trains its officers and works in collaboration with the support unit. There is also cross border collaboration with our neighbours on issues to do with wildlife. Back home we also hold wildlife crime work shops which are meant to sensitize stakeholders of wildlife crime and familiarize other law enforcement agents with wildlife laws. The Authority continues to lobby the judiciary for stiffer or deterrent sentences.
Protection strategies for the rhino in the country include the appointment of a National Rhino Co-coordinator in 2006 whose duties include habitat assessment, population analysis e.g. sex, age, structure, causes of mortality, breeding performance and rhino protection and strategies. In 2008 another National Rhino Co-coordinator was also appointed whose mandate remains rhino protection and security strategies.
In 2011, the country commemorated world rhino day for the first time and a rhino day was held on the 22nd of September. This will become an annual event. Dehorning exercises have been done, all meant for the protection of the rhino.
Both black and white rhinos in the country have been under persistent threats from poachers, and 95% of their deaths are due to poaching. The country in 2011 lost 30 rhinos in private land and 5 rhinos in state land to poaching. In 2012 fourteen rhinos were lost to poaching in private land and 8 in state land. This year, between January and June, 8 rhinos were also lost to poachers, all in private land. In 2013, the majority of the rhino poaching incidents have been carried out in some private conservancies. The country has less than 1 000 individuals of both black and white rhinos distributed across.