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Matopos rhino in crisis

Matopos rhino in crisis

Matopos rhino in crisis

Tourism operators in Matabeleland have banded together in support of the National Parks Authority to spearhead a plan to safeguard the remaining rhino in the Matopos area close to Bulawayo.

Rhinos have been on earth some 50 million years and rock paintings are evidence that they have been present in the Matopos hills for at least 10 000 of those millions. By the end of the 19th Century, that was no longer the case as the rhino gave way to the rifle and indiscriminate hunting.

The rock art evidence was used to support the reintroduction of rhino to the Matopos in the 1950s and 1960s; they flourished in an example of a highly successful wildlife conservation strategy. Now they are once again threatened with elimination, this time by poachers seeking to supply an insatiable market for horn in the Far East.

Both black and white rhino are present in the Matopos, but difficult to protect as they are widely dispersed. The current campaign is to raise funds to restore fencing to the Whovi section of the Park where the rhino population will be concentrated and more secure.

Roughly 52 kms of fencing is needed at a cost of at least US$1 500.00 per kilometer for materials only. Almost half of the amount has already been pledged. At a public briefing in November, John Burton spoke for the tourism operators in asking for contributions in finance, time, labour, as well as a positive attitude to getting the job done and promoting the future of the rhino.

“If we save the rhino, we save the Park,” said Burton. “Rhino walks offer a wildlife experience similar to visiting the mountain gorillas or swimming with whales. The Matopos already has an established reputation for rhino viewing. The rhinos secure our tourism, and the whole community benefits from the resulting economic activity. With rhino we can market the Park from a strong position, and this in turn secures our future revenue stream.”

The plan to re-fence the Whovi section was birthed in a meeting of stakeholders called by Dr Norman Monks, Area Manager of the Rhodes Matopos National Park, and Oscar Nyathi, Area Manager for Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching, in September. Three rhino have unfortunately been poached in the Matopos this year.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 11, Dec 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Bulawayo & Matobo Hills