North west Matabeleland, incorporating Hwange National Park and the Zambezi National Park, was traditionally home to both Black and White Rhino. The Black Rhino lived in the rugged hills and bush in what is now the Sinamatella and Robins sectors of Hwange, and were recorded on the basalts of the Zambezi River basin above the Victoria Falls, while the White Rhino was widespread on the flat open Kalahari forest areas predominating this region, noted by F C Selous in numbers on the Dete Vlei in the late 1800’s.
However, human influence in the early twentieth century through settlement, agriculture, and unsustainable hunting caused the rhino to be all but wiped out. In the 1980’s white rhino were reintroduced to Hwange from the Matopos (ex Natal Parks Board, South Africa), while during the 1990’s, in response to severe poaching pressure on the Black Rhino population in the lower Zambezi Valley, an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) was declared in the Sinamatella area where maximum protection and security could be offered, into which were relocated rhinos captured in the Zambezi Valley.
The Black Rhino population in the IPZ was at about 90 animals ten years ago, but the intensified poaching over the last decade saw their numbers reduced to a population of under 10 today. These rhino are dispersed over about 2000 square kilometres of rugged bush, making monitoring difficult.
The White Rhino have unfortunately been wiped out in this region of Zimbabwe.
Bhejane Trust is primarily concerned with the monitoring of the remaining Black Rhino population, and assisting National Parks in the protection of these magnificent animals. We now have a permanent monitoring team on the ground in Sinamatella, comprising the Bhejane Trust team leader and selected, dedicated Parks rangers. This team is in the field at all times, checking for any illegal activity, and collecting any information and data on the remaining rhino, so as to establish the status and viability of the population, and to map a way forward for the future of these specific rhino.
Rhino Conservation Areas
In consultation with National Parks research, and following on concepts suggested in the Zimbabwe National Rhino Conservation Strategy document, Bhejane Trust has put forward a proposal to set up Rhino Conservation Areas (RCA’s) at Sinamatella and in the Masuwe Game Reserve just 5km South of Victoria Falls.
At Sinamatella this RCA would be a secure fenced area for a breeding black rhino population which can be fully protected, rather than trying to protect a scattered population spread over a couple of thousands of square kilometres! This core breeding nucleus will form the basis for the reintroduction of rhino back into the wild at such a time in the future when it is deemed safe. The Sinamatella RCA will be stocked with animals from the Sinamatella population, and from other isolated pockets from around Zimbabwe which are threatened.
The Masuwe RCA would house only white rhino and would be more for educational purposes and fund raising, relying on the tourism market in Victoria Falls for support. Apart from breeding rhino stocks, it would have a conservation centre, for the education and benefit of both tourists and school children. This centre would be run in conjunction with National Parks. Any monies raised at the Masuwe RCA would be used to fund rhino conservation projects elsewhere within Zimbabwe.
Rhino 2.jpeg