THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) is soon expected to take delivery of okapi and gorilla breeds in a wildlife exchange programme with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government recently donated 10 white rhinos to DRC’s national parks.
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
Zimparks director-general Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya told Southern Eye during a visit to Hwange National Park on Saturday that the exchange programme would benefit both countries’ animal conservation programmes.
“Right now, we are having arrangements with DRC because we have some animals we want from them and they are willing to give us, but we are doing our homework first, because you can’t really take a chimpanzee or gorilla from there before you make plans,” he said.
“Just like they did when they wanted to introduce rhinos, they made serious investment plans and we are also going to do the same. They also have an animal called okapi which resembles half-zebra and half-giraffe and we also need it here. These are sensitive animals, but want to make scientific research and find if it can actually live well here without any problems of habitat changes. We are in talks with our counterparts so that they donate small numbers to start with and increase if they do well. DRC has always been a friend of us and we have done a lot for them and there is no reason for one to make an issue out of these rhinos because they also give us what we want,” Mangwanya said.
He said they had identified Nyanga in Manicaland province as a possible habitat for the gorillas.
Asked about fears of ebola transmission from the gorillas, Mangwanya said: “Don’t worry about the issue of ebola because we will test them before they come here.”
DRC’s rhinos were wiped out during the country’s civil wars which saw an upsurge in poaching and now the situation, according to Mangwanya, was conducive for restocking.
He warned critics against meddling in the country’s conservation efforts, adding that those with queries should approach Zimparks before taking their opinions to the Press.
Conservationists argue that translocation of animals was cruel as some would fail to adapt to the new environment and suffer from depression after being separated from their natural habitat.