user: pass:

Du Toit, R., 1994. Management of black rhino in Zimbabwean conservancies: pp. 95-99

In: Penzhorn, B.L. et al. Proceedings of a symposium on rhinos as game ranch animals. Onderstepoort, Republic of South Africa, 9-10 September 1994: pp. i-iv, 1-242

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - Zimbabwe
Subject: Distribution - Poaching
Species: African Rhino Species

Original text on this topic:
private land. At least 30 black rhinos have been poached on private land over the period April 1989 to December 1993. In addition, over this period four black rhinos have been found dead with no evidence of poaching but with their horns missing. In the worst poaching cases (such as the total eradication over a period of about 8 months of a group of 12 black rhinos on Ruwanzi Ranch, Karoi district), there has been evidence or at least strong suspicion of staff involvement. The temptation of inadequately supervised and poorly motivated staff to engage in poaching is the Achilles heel for rhino conservation on private land.
Another weakness that requires ongoing attention is a lack of cooperation, and sometimes outright antagonism, on the part of law-enforcement agencies who are resentful or suspicious of 'private armies'. Poor coordination between agencies such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe National Army, the Central Intelligence Organization and DNPWLM has been one of the major reasons for Zimbabwe's ineffectiveness in dealing with the poaching crisis. The recent formation of a Joint Operations Command to coordinate antipoaching should help to alleviate this problem, provided that the coordination extends to the private sector. A committee of private rhino custodians was formed in mid 1993 (under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Wildlife Producers' Association) to deal with such issues but so far this committee has been disappointingly inactive.
As regards security, the pressure of commercial rhino poaching activities requires a comprehensive, well co-ordinated antipoaching programme, instead of the disjointed efforts of individual custodians of black rhinos. The staffing and equipping of antipoaching units is easier and less costly if done as an overall conservancy initiative. The more properties involved, the tighter will be the overall detection screen and the quicker will be the reaction to any poaching incursions. Apart from these advantages in terms of conventional antipoaching, conservancies have the potential to achieve constructive interaction with neighbouring Communal Land communities through mutually beneficial projects. They can thereby develop incentives for local people to report rhino poachers.
A simplistic paramilitary approach to rhino protection has failed dismally in virtually all areas where it has been attempted. This has largely been due to a lack of funds required to sustain a sufficiently intensive war against poachers. In view of this, the prospect of combining a commercial conservation approach with a programme for community involvement has aroused considerable interest amongst international conservation agencies. As a collaborative project with the Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management, substantial funds have been allocated by the Beit Trust via the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to consolidate the rhino breeding programme in the Lowveld conservancies. This project was implemented in the belief that:
- the Zimbabwean Government regards wildlife ranching as a legitimate primary land-use in the arid Lowveld areas;
- the Zimbabwean Government appreciates the impracticality of peasant resettlement schemes in these marginal farming zones;
- the Lowveld conservancies can rapidly develop major wildlife industries, based on ecotourism, in which the rhinos can become assets rather than financial liabilities and their protection will therefore not depend upon ongoing donor support.
The lower poaching pressure on private land as opposed to DNPWLM land has hitherto been related more to distance from Zambia than to any major differences in antipoaching effort. The geographical factor pertains largely to the increased likelihood that Zambian poaching gangs will be detected as they penetrate deeper into Zimbabwe. This detection probability is enhanced by the fact that private ranches have inherently good detection screens, in the form all manner of staff, landowners, visitors, etc. Because this is their strength, and also because early detection of poaching activity is more important than massive post-poaching reaction, the conservancies must place emphasis on improving ground coverage and intelligence systems. The engagement and training of more antipoaching staff (to achieve a recommended minimum manpower density of at least one scout per 2 500 ha) has undoubtedly helped to control rhino poaching, but equally important factors are as follows.
- Efforts made by conservancies to improve relations with surrounding peasant communities and to thus create a social climate which is less conducive to poaching activity.
- Establishment of a reward system to pay significant amounts for information that helps with the arrest or eradication of poachers (up to R4 500.00 is offered in each instance).
- Dehorning of most of the rhinos.
- The implementation of a rhino monitoring system, whereby efforts are being made to regularly account for every rhino on private land, and ranch staff are therefore made aware that any losses will be notice.

[ Home ][ Literature ][ Rhino Images ][ Rhino Forums ][ Rhino Species ][ Links ][ About V2.0]