The late 1970s civil war in Mozambique devasted the Zinave National Park. Consequently, it was called “the silent park” with most of the animals gone. Describing the experience of the park in the years that followed the civil war, Werner Myburgh, the CEO of Peace Parks Foundation said,
“It was the eerie feeling of dead quietness. There was no bird, insect, or animal in sight. Bringing back the rhinos will position Zinave National Park as an exciting tourism destination.”
Peace Park Foundation (PPF), an organization with the dream of re-establishing, renewing, and preserving large functional ecosystems partnered with the Mozambican government to reintroduce wildlife to the park and restore its former glory.
On Friday 1st July 2022, the last set of animals, the white rhinos, completed a 1,600-kilometer ride in huge trucks from South Africa to Zinave National Park. The introduction of the animals means this is the first time that white rhinoceros will inhabit the park in 40 years. The initiative to reintroduce wildlife to the park will boost the local economy too.
The long path to Zinave National Park restoration
Since 2015, the Peace Park Foundation has been working actively to bring back wildlife to the park. From 2015 to June 2020, over 2,400 animals cut across 14 different species have been released into the park. The release of the white rhinos into the park means that Zinave National Park is now the only park in the whole country to have the Big Five African game animals (buffalo, leopard, lion, rhino, elephant).
Bringing the 19 white rhinoceros was a tedious task. They had to be hauled from South Africa in huge trucks over several days (60 to 70 hours long journey). According to Peace Park Foundation, that was the longest rhino transfer by road they have ever undertaken.
The white rhinos were the last animals to be reintroduced into the park. They were first taken to Maputo National Park in Mozambique to rest and rehydrate. They spent 2 days there before making the trip all the way to Zinave. Speaking about the achievement, Kester Vickery of Conservation Solution said,
“We have proven that this is a new way we can now move rhinos great distance across the continent. It has never been done before. With proper housing in the right places, we can actually restock protected areas in other countries from South Africa.”
Dealing with the poaching problem
Poaching continues to be a huge problem in Africa. Games are hunted for parts that are sold on the black market. In total, there are just about 5,000 black rhinos and about 18,000 white rhinos left.
This makes rhinos an endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN classified white rhinos as near-threatened while black rhinos are classified as critically endangered.
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To keep the rhinos safe from poachers, they are kept in a special high-security sanctuary within Zinave National Park. Here, Peace Park Foundation hopes the population of rhinos would double over the next three years.
In attendance at a ceremony to mark the end of the long restocking process were President Filipe Nyusi and Ivete Maibaze, the Minister of Environment. According to President Nyusi,
“Biodiversity protection is of universal importance and we will collectively work to battle for the conservation of our natural heritage. Consequently, future generations will benefit from nature and join the fight to preserve our natural resources.”