The Peace Parks Foundation; Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC); Exxaro Resources; Mozambique Wildlife AllianceWATCH VIDEO
This landmark and pioneering rewilding initiative, consisted of a series of white and black rhino translocations, intending to rebuild the founder populations of rhino into Zinave National Park. This monumental undertaking consisted of three phases, translocating a total of 25 white rhino and 12 black rhino, in an attempt to restore, secure, and expand the populations of both species. These animals were relocated from South Africa to Mozambique in the longest road transfer of rhinos ever done.
To date, over 2400 animals have been introduced into Zinave, representing 15 different species, of which we have been responsible for the capture and translocation of the majority of these animals over the last couple of years! The reintroduction of rhino is the pinnacle of these wildlife reintroductions, and an important measure for the survival of the species by establishing a new founder population in a national park in Mozambique. The plan is to translocate more than 40 rhino to the park over the next two to three years. It is then envisaged that in eight to ten years, a thriving rhino population in the park could be used to restock other protected areas.
After a 40-year absence, the 25 white rhino made Zinave National Park the first “big-five” national park in Mozambique!
Not only is the return of rhino to Zinave a historic occurrence, but the ground-breaking translocation in itself holds great potential for changing the way in which new rhino ranges can be established in Africa. Faced with a distance of about 1 600 km to traverse, that would take approximately 60-70 hours to complete, our team had to quickly come up with innovative solutions to keep the rhino safe and healthy.
The first translocation of 19 white was broken down into three phases: In the first phase the rhino were captured and temporarily offloaded into holding bomas to monitor their physical condition and ensure that they were fit for travel. Once cleared as being healthy and in good condition, the capture process was repeated, but this time the rhino were ‘walked’ into crates and lifted onto flatbed trucks with a special crane, before being transported to a half-way point. Here they rested and took on food and water for a day or two, before being loaded once more for the third and final leg of the trip.
In Zinave the crates were offloaded as quickly as possible and the rhino allowed to walk into temporary holding bomas. They were immediately given feed and access to water, and a veterinary team was on hand to check up on each one. Only once they have taken in the necessary sustenance and are declared as healthy, will were released into the much larger rhino sanctuary specifically built for this purpose where they can roam freely.
Never before has anyone made use of a halfway house to break a long journey and ensure the well-being of the animals, and it has worked extremely well. It has provided a new methodology for moving white rhino across the continent and will allow for the restocking of protected areas that were previously not accessible for translocations of this nature, creating more options to set up founder populations in suitable remote habitats.
As a testament to the health and safety of the animals, the first healthy female calf has already been born in Zinave, just weeks after their arrival, kick-starting the growth curve for the white rhino population! The white rhinos have adjusted and are thriving in their new home.
The 12 black rhino, and six white rhino, made a similar journey from Manketti Game Reserve in South Africa to Zinave National Park in Mozambique, however without the lay over period in Maputo National Park. The black rhinos followed a more direct route without stopping, making this one of the longest translocation of black rhino by road ever undertaken. To ensure that they were in peak condition before embarking on their epic journey, they were monitored in specially constructed bomas for several weeks before the translocation. Once on the trucks, they were supervised by a team of veterinarians throughout, whilst armed forces never left the convoy’s side. Upon arrival in Zinave, the black rhino were released into similar boma structures, where they will be observed before also being released into the sanctuary.
To maximise the safety of the rhinos, they have each been fitted with a state of the art tracking sensor, enabling the live tracking of animals and assets in a central operations control room that is operational 24/7. The sensors form part of a suite of integrated security interventions aimed at keeping the rhino, and the park’s other wildlife, safe. Peace Parks are responsible for management of Zinave National Park and are the custodians of these rhino. It was a privilege to work alongside our partners to return this flagship species to this specular landscape.