Lowveld Rhino Trust
Lowveld Rhino Trust
In 2009 Dublin Zoo began supporting the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe via the organisation, “Save the Rhino”. The Lowveld conservancies are home to approximately 50% of Zimbabwe’s white rhinos and 80% of the country’s black rhinos. However, due to increasing political, social and economic problems in Zimbabwe, poaching has increased greatly. The Lowveld Rhino Trust is involved with translocating rhinos to safer areas, treating wounded rhinos and helping authorities apprehend poachers. In addition to this work they also monitor rhino populations and develop community outreach programmes.
The Lowveld Rhino Trust was established by Zimbabwean-born Raoul du Toit and in 2011 Raoul was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of his conservation work for African rhinos. The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest prize for grassroots environmentalists.
Routine rhino monitoring confirmed the births of thirty-two rhino calves in Bubye and Save Valley Conservancies (these conservancies lie within the Lowveld conservancies) in 2011. The total number of confirmed calves born in 2011 will increase as more females are checked in early 2012. Total detected rhino deaths for the year stands at twenty with seventeen of these being poaching deaths. Overall 2011 was an encouraging year with both these large populations maintaining growth and some significant anti-poaching successes being achieved. Though poaching remains a serious threat that could worsen, sustained and committed effort is currently bringing the situation under control. From the dire situation in 2008, when 16.3% of these populations were killed by poachers, the rate of loss has been reduced to 4.5% in 2011.
Double and Trouble
Late afternoon on the 16th of October 2011 a burst of automatic gunfire was heard in Save Valley Conservancy. The site of the shooting was found but the rhinos had run. The rhino monitors were able to identify the rhinos as Double and her 16 month old calf Trouble from their location and spoor size. Because these rhinos live in a high poaching risk area the cow had been fitted with a horn radio transmitter so it was possible for the rhino monitors to locate the pair quickly the following day. Both Double and her calf had sustained gunshot wounds and needed urgent veterinary attention.
The vet immobilised both animals for treatment finding seven bullet holes in the mother and one bullet hole to the front knee of the calf. Fortunately none of the bullets in the cow had damaged vital organs. Because both animals could still walk sufficiently to get to browse and water, and since the mother was radio-trackable it was decided to leave the pair in the field and closely monitor their recovery. Both have made remarkable recoveries and have not needed further treatment.
In September 2011 a hungry and distressed 12 month old black rhino calf was found defending his mother’s carcass from a pride of lions in Bubye Valley Conservancy. The mother, “Beknown”, had been shot by poachers with a silenced weapon so no gunshots were heard. The silencer reduced the speed of the bullet and therefore its impact and so Beknown did not die instantly and managed to escape from the poachers with her young calf. Beknown’s three year old sub-adult calf “Benice” was with her when the poachers attacked and she was also wounded and ran but the poachers chassed her down, shooting her multiple times till she was dead.
Without a mother to feed and protect him, the young “Bebrave” had to be captured for hand-raising, but since he nonetheless weighed over 300 kilograms he had to be handled cautiously while being convinced to take milk from a bottle. Fortunately Enos Shumba, a Loweveld Rhino Trust employee, has hand-raised six young black rhinos over the last five years and understands them so well that he was able to encourage Bebrave to suck on the milk bottle the day after he was captured. Bebrave adapted quickly to his new life and is growing well and made close friends with a hand-raised eland that now shares his boma. Bebrave will be fed milk until he is 20 months old but he will not be released back into the wild till he is closer to three years old when he should be big enough to protect himself against lions.