Protecting our heritage


Wildlife and endangered species conservation is Imire’s primary focus.

We believe that the key to sustainable conservation is firstly through collaboration with local communities. Our objective at Imire is to ensure the safety and security of our wildlife by enhancing the relationship between tourism, conservation programmes and our surrounding villages, through long-term, sustainable environmental management and positive community projects.

Secondly, small privately-run conservancies play a vital role in conservation in Africa. Areas like Imire build and retain vital natural gene pools and sustain viable wildlife populations – protecting them in smaller, more secure, and easier-to-monitor areas. These gene pools can then ultimately be utilised to help repopulate areas affected by poaching, where wildlife populations have been decimated.

Imire strives to remain at the forefront of conservation in Zimbabwe taking part in ground-breaking breeding programmes, endangered species rewilding, wildlife research, innovative game capture and movement and advanced anti-poaching solutions.

Rhino Conservation

Imire is internationally renowned for its black rhino breeding and release programme. In the 1980’s, during a period of Zimbabwe’s worst poaching, rhino numbers plummeted from 10,000 to less than 1,000 in just a few years. The Department of National Parks & Wildlife moved the remaining wild rhino into the custodianship of private conservancies, named Intensive Protection Zones (IPZ).

In 1987 Imire was named an IPZ and awarded custodianship of 7 orphaned black rhino by the Zimbabwean government. From then we began our pioneering black rhino breeding programme.

The first rhinos who arrived at Imire were between four and six months old. We hand-reared each calf on specialised formula milk for eight years and raised them as a semi-domesticated herd. Several in-depth research studies were carried out by ecologists to ensure the rhino suffered no ill effects from the highveld vegetation and climate.

Our original rhinos, the 'Magnificent Seven', bred very successfully, with 15 births in less than 20 years – a record given the rhino’s notoriously slow speed of reproduction. By 2006 we had successfully released 11 rhinos back into the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe. Since 2006 we have had ten further rhino births, eight black rhinos and two white rhinos.

The future of rhino release in Zimbabwe

Due to increasingly sophisticated illegal wildlife poaching and the increased value of rhino horn in Eastern markets, rhino numbers are once again dropping alarmingly. Until uncontrolled poaching within National Parks abates, Imire has resolved to protect and secure our adult rhinos onsite rather than releasing them into wilderness areas.

Mature adults and their dependent calves are now released into a community-supported, 2nd stage, free-roaming sanctuary onsite. This allows our rhino an opportunity to become less habituated to human contact without daily interactions and supplement feeding. 24-hour armed guards remain with the rhino but at a distance. In this way, we can ensure our rhino's safety from birth until such a time when poaching in wilderness areas abates enough to allow us to confidently release them back into their wild habitats.

Imire is home to ten black rhinos. Gomo is our oldest male rhino. He and Kamchacha (female) and her four offspring, Tafara, Khanya, Chaka and Foggin roam the wilderness section. Our two other mature female black rhinos, Shanu and her calf, Tafika, plus her calf Mudiwa and male rhino Kushinga, stay in the main section.

We are also proud to have eight white rhinos. Our original breeding pair, Matopos and Ntombi are joined by their offspring, Masimba and Tariro. In 2023 we were part of an emergency relocation operation, which saw four addition white rhinos brought to Imire after a poaching incident at their previous reserve. This saw one mature male, Bear, a mature female, Ella and her calf Bae, and an unrelated female calf, Mwedzi arrive at Imire.


In October 2023 we saw the birth of the 23rd rhino to be born at Imire. Mudiwa is also the first of a 3rd generation of rhinos to be born at the conservancy - her mother Tafika and grandmother Shanu were born here from Amber, one of the original Magnificent Seven orphans brought to Imire in 1987. Mudiwa is also the first calf sired by Kushinga, bringing vital genetic diversity to our herd.

The Imire rhino family tree

We've done a family tree of our rhinos, showing the first arrivals down to our most recent rhino calf, Mudiwa.

Imire rhino family tree

Click to download the family tree.

Our Elephants

Imire is home to three elephants. Mac and Mandebvu form our small family herd, and Nzou, the oldest female elephant on Imire, happily lives with a herd of buffalo (watch her story here)! The elephants living at Imire were orphaned at various stages from different conservation areas in Zimbabwe.

We were privileged to be chosen as their custodians and have since provided them with an environment that is as close to their natural habitat as possible, whilst maintaining both animal and human safety. Had the elephants not been saved and given a home at Imire, they would certainly have perished in the wild. We have a duty of care for them that we take extremely seriously.

Ivory and rhino horn poaching in Africa is rife and to protect both our elephants and rhinos, they sleep tethered in a secure boma at night. In this way, we can ensure that there are armed guards, proper lighting and communication systems in place in the event of any incident threatening their safety. The elephants are completely free to roam and browse the whole conservancy during the day.

Elephants are extremely intelligent, sensitive and empathetic mammals. They need constant stimulation to remain content. This stimulation occurs in the wild by being part of a large, hierarchal herd and facing constant challenges of finding food and water while avoiding predators.

We are obliged, under our duty of care, to provide for the elephants mental, as well as their physical, needs. We therefore give them extra stimulation which we do with daily teaching sessions. This is a form of environmental enrichment. These sessions help us to educate visitors about elephants and allow a unique interaction to happen in a safe manner. We use a method of Cooperative Teaching, which uses positive voice (praise) and food reinforcement.


Our animal welfare policy at Imire monitors the physical and psychological well-being of all the animals, and is reviewed constantly in conjunction with external animal welfare experts and highly renowned wildlife veterinarians. We are constantly reviewing and updating this as we learn more about the lives of all our animals. In this way, we can share our lives and our conservancy environment with one of the most iconic species on earth, and each elephant acts as an educational ambassador instilling a deep love for their species in any visitor that meets them.

Cheetah Conservation

In 2021 Imire moved into a new phase of conservation, working alongside our partners, UK charity, The Aspinall Foundation. The Aspinall Foundation believes animals belong in the wild in their natural habitat and not in captivity. They are at the forefront of rewilding captive animals to areas of protected wilderness and identified Imire as the ideal partner for a cheetah rewilding project, thanks in part to our long experience in rhino breeding, protection and release.

Phase 1 of the project saw the brothers being identified at Parc Safari in Canada as good candidates for rewilding. They were then prepared at the facility for their long journey and change of environment. They arrived at Imire in February 2021.

Phase 2, was to rewild the brothers with the purpose of contributing to the genetic diversity of the cheetah population in Zimbabwe and to assist in repopulating other reserves and parks. Cheetahs are a key species which are currently in serious threat in Zimbabwe. The two years that Kumbe and Jabari spent on Imire were a phenomenal success. The natural instincts of both cheetahs kicked in instantly and they began effectively hunting as a coalition from the first day they were released from their quarantine boma. From this point, their confidence, skill and ability to survive and thrive in the wild grew.

In September 2023 the cheetahs were relocated to a larger conservancy in Zimbabwe, one with competitor predators and other wild cheetah populations.

The goal is for the cheetah brothers to integrate with the resident cheetahs at their new home and begin to contribute to the wider metapopulation. 

Anti-Poaching & Security

The men and women who make up Anti-Poaching Units in Africa are undoubtedly the unsung heroes of wildlife conservation. These brave souls risk their lives daily to ensure that our generation fulfil the huge responsibility of protecting the endangered under our care from poaching.

Well organized, coordinated and effective anti-poaching protection in the field is essential to successfully protecting rhino populations across the world, both in the wild and in conservancy style environments.

Anti-poaching at Imire aims to be both pro-active and reactive in patrols with the vision of reducing the level of poaching, not just of rhino for their horn, but also of smaller species too for meat and sale value. In addition to maintaining a formal, military style level of protection for our wildlife, Imire prioritize our relationship and effective communication with members of our informer networks. Enlisting our community members as key partners in anti-poaching proves particularly effective with long term rewards for all involved.

Our anti-poaching team formally employs many local members of our community, providing a noble livelihood to those otherwise marginalized local people.   This helps provide benefits to local families living in the area and strengthens the support they lend to protecting wildlife at Imire.

Our anti-poaching team at Imire consists of scouts with advanced skills, and extreme professionalism. We aim to keep our scouts extremely motivated with constant training and education, and the correct weapons, equipment and uniforms.


Other Wildlife

We are proud to have four of Africa’s Big 5 at Imire. In addition to our ten black and eight white rhinos, and three resident elephants, the conservancy is also home to a herd of Cape Buffalo, with Nzou the elephant as their matriarch and Mambo, a majestic retired male lion, living out his retirement in comfort.

When visiting Imire you will also have the pleasure of viewing a wide variety of plains game in their natural environment including sable, eland, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, blesbok, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog and crocodile. As well as the many species of wildlife, Imire boasts over 152 species of bird and numerous snakes and lizards! Truly a game viewer and photographer’s paradise! We are also home to a dozen rescued mongooses, relocated from South Africa in October 2023.

As human populations and their need for land grows, true wildernesses as we have known them historically are disappearing, enclosed by human activities. As a result, wildlife in private conservancies must be well managed and protected to ensure that species can survive.

At Imire you are privileged to witness a workable solution where human communities, wildlife conservation and agriculture can be integrated, while enjoying a once in a lifetime safari experience!