LOOK: Zinave Park welcomes first rhinos in four decades

The first rhino calf born in Zinave National Park. Picture: Peace Parks Foundation

The first rhino calf born in Zinave National Park. Picture: Peace Parks Foundation

Published Jul 11, 2022


Over 40 years ago, the last rhinos were poached to extinction in the Zinave National Park, Mozambique. But, last week, the park welcomed 19 white rhinos which were translocated overland from South Africa, the longest road transfer of rhinos ever done.

The Peace Parks Foundation said in a statement that the landmark rewilding initiative, the first in a series of white and black rhino translocations is the result of a partnership between Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (Anac), Peace Parks Foundation and Exxaro Resources, in support of and in collaboration with the governments of Mozambique and South Africa.

The introduction of the rhino to Zinave will create the only “big five” national park in Mozambique.

Each rhino was carefully walked into a crate specifically sized and “booked” for that rhino, and ready with the animal’s relevant paperwork and medication. Picture: Peace Parks Foundation

The overall objective since the signing of a long-term co-management agreement in 2015, Anac and Peace Parks is to rewild the park to create a healthy ecosystem by introducing viable wildlife populations, attracting tourists back to the park and supporting the livelihoods of local communities living around the park.

To date, 2 400 game animals representing 14 different species have been introduced to Zinave, including elephant, sable, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, leopard, and hyena.

Notably, a small lion population introduced themselves to the park, indicating the functionality of the corridors between the five national parks in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Great Limpopo is one of the largest transfrontier conservation areas in the world, spanning 100 000 square kilometres.

The 408 000 ha Zinave National Park was left decimated following a civil war that lasted 16 years. Through an extensive rewilding and restoration programme, commencing in 2016, Anac and Peace Parks have completely transformed the landscape – developing infrastructure and capacity, enhancing conservation management and security, and breathing new life into what was once referred to as a “silent park”.

The foundation said that the rewilding process is a vital component of restoring nature and ecological balance in large landscapes. By reintroducing wildlife to areas where the species once thrived, biodiversity is once again restored.

The restoration and preservation of natural ecosystems are also recognised as one of the most effective tools we have in mitigating climate change and can increase global carbon uptake by up to 12 times through the creation of ecosystem “carbon sinks”.

The first rhino to set foot in Zinave National Park in 40 years. Picture: Peace Parks Foundation

“Significant and noteworthy progress has been made in the rewilding and rehabilitation of our national parks in Mozambique over the past decade,” said Mozambique’s Land and Environment Minister Ivete Maibaze. “We are very proud of our collaboration with our long-term partner Peace Parks Foundation, which has played a key role in this journey.”

Werner Myburgh, Peace Parks Foundation chief executive said “the return of the rhino allows for Zinave to be introduced as a new and exciting tourism destination in Mozambique, with the sought-after “big-five” species – the only national park in Mozambique that has elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo.”

Myburgh believes that the project will boost international investment and encourage sustainable tourism development to provide much-needed employment for local communities.

The foundation plans to translocate more than 40 rhinos to the park over the next two to three years. It hopes that a thriving rhino population in the park could be used to restock other protected areas within the next eight to 10 years.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi joined dignitaries from all three partner countries of the Great Limpopo TFCA to commemorate these achievements, and release the white rhino from the bomas into the wider sanctuary.

“A word of sincere appreciation goes to the funders and partners, notably the Peace Parks Foundation, for choosing to work with us in conserving biodiversity and restoring habitats under constant threat in our country. The protection of biodiversity is a universal imperative and together we will continue to fight for the preservation of our natural heritage, because only then will future generations be able to enjoy the benefits of nature and join our mission of preserving our natural resources,” the president said.

Vice-chairperson of Peace Parks Foundation, Mozambique’s former president, Joaquim Chissano, said: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the donors who have supported Peace Parks in the restoration of Zinave National Park, in particular Exxaro, German Postcode Lottery and MAVA Foundation, who have helped make the introduction of the rhino possible.

“What is happening here in Zinave bodes well for the future of biodiversity conservation, economic development, and regional peace and security,” Chissano said.

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