White Rhino Conservation: the ongoing impact of rhino poaching in Zimbabwe

In recent years Zimbabwe has made great strides in both black and white rhino conservation. Annual reports published in 2022 show that the rhino population in Zimbabwe has surpassed more than 1,000 animals for the first time in three long decades. This achievement is a testament to the many Zimbabwean men and women who devote their lives to conservation and it gives us hope and confidence that the tide may one day turn in the ongoing war on poaching. 

However, in the constant battle to save our rhinos, there are heartbreaking losses. Sadly, in recent weeks four white rhinos were mercilessly slaughtered in another private conservancy. Swiftly, the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority stepped in, mobilizing rangers and implementing immediate plans to relocate the remaining rhinos to safe havens. This devastating incident is a stark reminder of the harsh realities of rhino conservation. The threat is ever-present, and the consequences of failure are catastrophic.

Imire chosen for white rhino relocation

In 1987, we were entrusted with our first group of black rhinos, also deeply affected by poaching. Now, Imire has been selected as a safe haven for four of the remaining white rhinos. Despite the sorrowful circumstances, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting these majestic creatures.

Moving a significant tonnage of highly endangered and stressed animals is a monumental task. The operation required helicopters, cranes, highly trained veterinary personnel, new VHF foot collars for all rhino, and multiple police escorts. The Aspinall Foundation, a UK wildlife conservation charity, and conservation specialists WeWild Africa, immediately joined forces with Imire and National Parks to relocate these animals.  They generously funded the entire relocation operation, demonstrating their unwavering support for Imire and white rhino conservation in Zimbabwe.

Settling in at Imire

The rhinos arrived safely at Imire, but they did not escape unscathed.

During the process of darting and loading them onto the vehicles, it was discovered that Mwedzi, the youngest female in the group, had been shot in the shoulder. The fact that she survived this shot at all is a miracle. The veterinary team at African Wildlife Management and Conservation has been closely monitoring her and thankfully, the bullet missed any vital organs but is still lodged somewhere in her body. Only time will tell of the long-term consequences of her injury, but for now, she is adjusting well to life at Imire.

Stressed from the poaching incidents they have witnessed and the gravity of a big move cross country, the past two weeks on Imire have allowed the rhino space, quiet and peace in a large secured boma while they settle into their new environment. They will remain in their family unit while adjusting, and at a later stage will be introduced to the wider conservancy and the other rhinos.

Introducing the new rhinos

The new arrivals are Ella (10 years old) and her two calves, Bae (5 years) and Mwedzi (2 years), and one unrelated male, Bear (13 years old).

Photo credit Instagram:@jcrbotelho

High Hopes for White Rhino Conservation

As always, Imire, The Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa are committed to ensuring we do everything in our collective powers to keep these new rhino safe and healthy, ensuring them a long, happy and secure life. Our outstanding rangers, who fill us with pride each day, will go above and beyond to safeguard these new arrivals with the same passion and dedication they show for all our precious wildlife.

We have high hopes and great anticipation for our new residents in their new home. Our goal is for them to not only thrive and breed successfully but also to play a pivotal role in increasing the national rhino population and introducing important genetics into the metapopulation.

We are grateful to National Parks for their quick action and outstanding facilitation of such an urgent and important relocation and to The Aspinall Foundation and WeWild Africa for their ongoing support and partnership. 

The relocation operation was funded by long-term Imire partner, The Aspinall Foundation, for which we are so grateful. But four new rhinos mean many additional costs we now need to unexpectedly meet. We have a long road ahead and we aim to rise to the challenge with passion and success. If you would like to help us do so your donation would be welcomed gratefully. You can donate online here, or get in touch by email: [email protected].

Rhino and baby rhino

Be a conservation VOLUNTEER AT IMIRE

We welcome groups, couples, solo travellers and families onto our volunteer programmes.

- To volunteer with your family, find out about our Family Volunteer Programme.
- For over 17s, click for our Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme.
- For experienced horse riders, click to find out about our Equine Programme.
- Interested in pursuing a career in guiding or going into more about conservation and wildlife? Find out about our 6 week Nature Enthusiast Course and our Apprentice Field Guide Programme.

Imire is home to three elephants, 17 rhinos (eight white and nine black), buffalos and two re-wilded cheetah. In addition we also have giraffes, wildebeest, zebra, sable and a plethora of other plains game.

As an Imire rhino conservation volunteer, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work hands-on with rhinos, elephants and cheetah, side-by-side with conservation experts and within local communities. Rhino conservation volunteers play a key role in protecting Africa’s wildlife, and also develop deep intercultural understanding, through working in our vibrant community alongside friendly and like-minded people.

Get in touch to find out more about our volunteer programmes:
Email us: [email protected].