Zimbabwe: Dambari Wildlife Trust


Location: Based in Bulawayo, working in Hwange National Park, Matobos National Park, Kyle National Park, Chivero National Park and Nyamaneche National Park
Programme leader: Verity Bowman
Programme partner: Marwell Wildlife, Paignton Zoo
Rhino species: Black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) and Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum)
Activities: Training and employing rhino monitors, rhino monitoring and operations
Support: We focus our support on rhino management operations
Funding partners: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Save Foundation (Australia)


White rhino grazing.Credit: DWT

Dambari Wildlife Trust (DWT, formerly known as Marwell Zimbabwe Trust) has been assisting with rhino conservation in Zimbabwe for over 10 years, spanning a very difficult period in Zimbabwe’s history. In essence, several NGOs each operate in an assigned region of the country. Historically, DWT has focused on working in two western Intensive Protection Zones (IPZs) for rhinos, Matobo and Hwange (Sinamatella and Main Camp), in an agreed arrangement with Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA). DWT has recently become involved with two other National Parks, Kyle and Chivero.
DWT’s initiatives for rhino conservation have included training and employing rhino monitors, training Parks’ ecologists in rhino conservation and database management, and providing technical and practical advice and equipment.
This work has been carried out against a background of heavy poaching in Zimbabwe’s National Parks and a failure of leadership by ZPWMA.

Programme managers

Verity Bowman (Director). Other key staff are Nicky Pegg (Director of Research) and Adele Edwards (Logistics Manager).


DWT is based in Bulawayo, and for years has been providing financial and technical support, primarily for for Matobos National Park and also in Sinamatella and Main Camp Intensive Protection Zones in Hwange National Park (all in Western Matabeleland). Through funding accessed from USFWS with SRI help (see below), DWT expanded its activities to cover rhino populations in three other National Parks: Kyle, Chivero and Nyamaneche (all in Mashonaland).

Species / population size

Please note that individual rhino population sizes are confidential. Southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) are present in Matobos, Main Camp and Sinamatella; South Central black rhinos (Diceros bicornis minor) are present in Matobos; all are very small populations below viable thresholds.


(See location, above).

Primary activity

DWT’s initiatives for rhino conservation have included training and employing rhino monitors, the deployment and analysis of camera traps, training Parks’ ecologists in rhino conservation and database management, and providing technical and practical advice and equipment. DWT assists with annual rhino management operations in Matobos National Park and Main Camp and Sinamatella IPZs.


DWT is not carrying out rhino research as such, but has published extensively on small antelope: Dambari Field Station has an important collection of duiker etc, though due to funding difficulties, the collection is being reduced.


As above.


DWT is engaged in various educational initiatives, though none of this is presently rhino-related. A recent project involved schoolchildren in monitoring ground hornbills. DWT also hosts three Zimbabwean undergraduates each year, for a 10-month placement: students learn all aspects of maintaining a field station as well as carrying out their own research, in topics such as invasive (plant) species management, duikers, black rhinos.


DWT’s activities have included adult involvement in projects, e.g. predator-livestock monitoring and mitigation assessment. DWT plays an active role in the Bulawayo neighbourhood, engaging with other conservation organisations and audiences.

Monitoring and evaluation

As much as it is able to do, given the deteriorating situation within Zimbabwe’s National Parks and a lack of funds, DWT monitors overall progress throughout annual ops via the monthly logistics progress meetings leading up to the commencement of the operation itself. Management operations are monitored in conjunction with National Park managers and the veterinary team, against the agreed work plan. National Park gain insight into the processes required to ensure a successful outcome. Typical targets for monitoring the rhino after the operation include:

  • locating and sighting rhinos with telemetry implants at least once every week
  • sighting ear-notched or otherwise identifiable rhinos at least once every month
  • sighting all other rhino at least once every month

Rhinos that are not detected within the specified time period will be tracked in a targeted operation. In this way, we hope to ensure that any missing or poached rhinos will be detected quickly, so that we can adjust patrol routes, increase security or repair fencing as appropriate. Sightings data will continue to be collected from patrol reports and analysed monthly. Backup databases are maintained independently for security of information.

History of SRI’s involvement

SRI first started working with DWT in 2009, when Michelle Gadd at USFWS encouraged Cathy Dean, Director of SRI, to work with Verity to submit a funding application, as no one else was asking for support for rhinos in Zimbabwe’s national parks. (The situation is complicated by US govt sanctions.) SRI successfully submitted an application in November 2008 asking for funding for rhino management operations in 2009, and again in November 2009 for ops in 2010. SRI has given grants from its own core funds to help cover the cost of these operations.

In 2011, former member of staff Cath Lawson spent 2 weeks working with DWT, looking at fundraising and the use of social media, and also created a new website for DWT. Also in 2011, Director Cathy Dean spent six weeks working with DWT while on sabbatical.

Funding needs / budget etc

DWT’s annual budget is around 130,000 euros, excluding any annual rhino management operations, which are budgeted for separately.

Other funders

USFWS (through SRI). DWT also receives grants to cover its core costs from Marwell Wildlife, Paignton Zoo (Simon Tonge, Director of Paignton, is Chair of Trustees for DWT) and Save Foundation, Australia.

Programme sustainability

Dambari Wildlife Trust is struggling to cover its core costs at present, and has to scale back its activities to match the funding available. Part of its small antelope collection is being sold off in order to reduce ongoing costs.

Opportunities for (non-funding) technical support

DWT would like to encourage further research on its small antelope collection, but would need financial contributions in order to continue to operate.

Visiting Dambari Wildlife Trust

DWT now offers a paying volunteer scheme, whereby people can pay a fixed sum a week to live and work alongside DWT staff. For more information, email admin@dambari.com There are numerous lodges in and around Hwange and Matobos National Parks.