Zimbabwe: Lowveld Rhino Trust

Location
ZIMBABWE

At a glance

Location: Lowveld Conservancies
Programme manager: Raoul du Toit
Programme partner: Lowveld Rhino Trust 
Rhino species: South Central black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) and white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum)
Size of protected area: 755,000 ha covered by the monitoring units
Activities: Monitoring, translocations, education, temporary care for orphaned rhino calves
Support: We raise funds for Lowveld Rhino Trust, whose priority needs include ongoing support for the monitoring units, veterinary treatment as well as the development of an intelligence network and legal support
Funding partners: International Rhino Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Save Foundation (Australia), Knowsley Safari Park, Dublin Zoo

About Lowveld Rhino Trust

Zimbabwean-registered Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT) drives conservation activities in the Lowveld region of Zimbabwe, with a focus on Save Valley and Bubye Valley. Their efforts help tackle the area's immediate conservation needs (monitoring, management, protection and community awareness) as well as support a rhino-enabling environment (habitat, correct land-use, stakeholder attitudes). This is all towards fostering the long-term population growth of both black and white species of rhinos.

Lowveld Landscape

Credit: LRT

Programme manager

Raoul du Toit (Director). Raoul has worked diligently to support rhino conservation in Zimbabwe since 1986. In 2011, Raoul won the Goldman Environmental Award (Africa). Other key members of staff are Lovemore Mungwashu, Natasha Anderson and Chap Masterson.

Rhino species and population size

South Central black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) and Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum). Rhino population statistics here are confidential to protect against targeted poaching.

Location

The Save-Limpopo Lowveld area (collectively referred to as the Lowveld Conservancies), lie in the south east of Zimbabwe, 600m above sea-level and constitutes 20% of the land area of Zimbabwe.

Habitat

The low and variable rainfall (300-600mm per year) restricts the agricultural options. Irrigated crop production has significant potential where water is available. Dryland subsistence farming in the communal lands is both unproductive and environmentally destructive as it has expanded, with human population growth, under the semi-arid conditions. Commercial cattle ranching on extensive land has largely given way (under economic and ecological pressures) to wildlife-based operations. In addition to large populations of typical savannah wildlife species (including elephant, buffalo and various antelope), the Lowveld contains viable populations of several rarer species (including black rhino, white rhino, wild dog, cheetah and ground hornbill). The LRT’s rhino monitors cover an area of 755,000 hectares.

Programme sustainability

In the long-term, LRT aims to create incentives for local communities based on growing rhino populations – this will rely on donor funding.

Unfortunately, a plan to grow income for the Lowveld Conservancies through the sale of black rhinos to Botswana failed dismally as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority could not come to an agreement about the division of potential income. All black rhinos are state-owned in Zimbabwe, but populations in the National Parks have been heavily poached with very few remaining. This means that the only viable source of rhino populations for sale to Botswana would be in the privately managed Lowveld Conservancies.

For the next few years LRT will continue to need external donor support given the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and the rising poaching crisis.

Visiting the Lowveld Conservancies

Save Valley Conservancy and Bubye Conservancy are both sustainable hunting destinations, rather than photographic tourism areas.