This week saw the start of one of the largest wildlife translocation projects that Africa has ever seen, whereby 7 500 animals will find a new home in the 4 000 km² Zinave National Park in Mozambique over the next three years, coming from other protected areas in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This mammoth project is a collaboration between the three governments, as partners to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), of which Zinave is an important component. Mr Wilfried Pabst, owner of Sango Wildlife Conservancy in the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe has committed to donate 6 000 of these animals over the next three years, of which the Zimbabwe government has agreed to the translocation of the first 2 000 this year. A further 500 animals will be sourced from Gorongosa National Park, where sufficient numbers of wildlife have been built up through the partnership between the government of Mozambique and the Gorongosa Restoration Project, while 50 elephants will be donated from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in South Africa. read more
Zinave National Park is situated in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique and covers some 408 000 ha. Banhine National Park, measuring 725 000 ha lies about 150km south of Zinave.
Zinave boasts an excellent wildlife habitat and used to harbour a wide diversity of animals. It was initially declared a hunting concession in 1962. In 1972 it was upgraded to a national park, specifically to conserve important species such as giraffe, which historically only occurred in Mozambique south of the majestic Save River. The park has incredible tree (over 200 species) and grass (over 40 species) diversity, and has countless very large and impressive tree specimens. The ‘sense of place’ of Zinave is truly something to experience.
Unfortunately, the protracted civil war from 1980 to 1992 led to the loss of several of the large mammal species, including the giraffe that was emblematic of this national park. As part of a restocking exercise, a few animals of various species, including giraffe, were brought in from Kruger National Park in South Africa, but many more animals are needed to restore the park to its former glory.
Ideally situated close to one of Mozambique's tourism development nodes, the Vilanculos-Bazaruto Archipelo, Zinave, once restocked and developed, could become a sought-after tourist destination. It could also become a 4×4 destination, and improved facilities are planned for Limpopo, Banhine and Zinave national parks, to link them with Kruger and Gonarezhou national parks as part of a Great Limpopo TFCA trail.
Banhine, Limpopo and Zinave national parks are all important components of the Great Limpopo TFCA and part of the larger landscape linking the various river systems. Critical to the attainment of the conservation goals and targets in Mozambique is to ensure ecological connectivity between these three core conservation areas.
With wildlife dispersal areas between these parks, the communities are set to benefit through increased tourism development and employment, as well as community conservancies, where desired.
The key objectives of the development of the park are to unlock the tourism and socio-economic potential of the area and to ensure sustainable benefit flow and community development by:
Establishing the Zinave National Park as an important protected area of Mozambique;
Strengthening the conservation management capacity of both Zinave and Banhine national parks; and
Expanding and consolidating the core area of Great Limpopo TFCA in line with the objectives of the treaty that established it, through:
Reintroducing wildlife to Zinave;
Developing ecotourism products; and
Establishing community private partnerships and community conservancies in the wildlife dispersal areas to encourage ecotourism and wildlife migration.
The development of Zinave National Park as an integral component of Great Limpopo TFCA got under way in January 2016. This followed on the signing, on 22 September 2015, of a co-management agreement whereby the Mozambican National Agency for Conservation Areas and Peace Parks Foundation will develop Zinave National Park over the next 10 years.
The first wildlife reintroduction to Zinave took place in October 2016. In all, 317 animals were brought in, including elephant, warthog, reedbuck and waterbuck, with Peace Parks Foundation funding and managing the translocation. The elephant came from Maremani Nature Reserve in South Africa, while Mozambique donated wildlife from Gorongosa National Park. A translocation of up to 6 000 animals in total is planned from 2017 to 2020 and will include more giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, kudu, eland, buffalo and elephant.
A project implementation team and senior park staff were appointed and the necessary equipment, such as vehicles and computers, bought to enable them to do their work. A satellite communications system was installed to enable staff to communicate via the Internet. A Zenith aircraft was procured for the park to assist with planning and monitoring operations. The plane has already been instrumental in halting illegal logging activities inside the boundaries of the park.
Labour teams from surrounding communities were employed to demarcate park boundaries and to open up the fence to expand the wildlife sanctuary. Translocated wildlife are brought into the sanctuary, where they can settle in before being released into the park.
The design and planning of infrastructure development were concluded and a workshop was constructed. Brickmaking is under way for park houses, field ranger bases, pickets, and a dormitory, entrance gates, a tourism arrival centre, a rest camp and a four-wheel drive camp. The existing head office infrastructure will be upgraded and new power and water services will be installed.