BY OBERT SIAMILANDU
GONAREZHOU National Park has reintroduced the black rhino species, seven years after it became extinct.
The last original black rhino population in Gonarezhou was seen in the 1940s, presumably due to over-hunting and poaching activities.
A reintroduction programme for the black rhino was then implemented between 1969 and 1977, which resulted in 77 animals being brought to Gonarezhou from the Zambezi Valley.
The project resulted in the numbers of the black rhino growing to 140.
However, poaching activities in the 1980s resulted in the extinction of the species.
Gonarezhou reportedly lost its black rhino for the second time in 1994, resulting in a tragic second relocation of the species to the park.
Gonarezhou Conservation Trust director Hugo van Westhusein yesterday told NewsDay that the aim of the reintroduction of the black rhino was to establish a new, viable meta-population of the critically endangered species in one of the biggest national parks in Zimbabwe.
“This has not only spread the risk from existing strongholds of black rhino in Zimbabwe, but also brought back an essential mega-herbivore of the Gonarezhou ecosystem. The reintroduced black rhino came from the three well-established populations in Zimbabwe, the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Bube Valley Conservancy and Save Valley Conservancy,” Van Westhusein said, adding that each of the three populations had successful programmes being implemented.
“Through their generous support in providing founder individuals, Gonarezhou can now play host to a new population of black rhino. The aim is that these animals will become well-established in the park and grow into an International Union for Conservation of Nature-classified key one black rhino population,” he said.
The black rhino is still considered critically endangered through poaching and black market trafficking of the species.
The relocation of the animals to Gonarezhou is being done under the guidance of an expert team comprising experienced veterinarians, ecologists and animal handlers.
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