by MORRIS BISHI
CHIREDZI, (Lowveld Post) – SOME 39 game rangers have graduated as authorities step up surveillance ahead of the re-introduction of rhinoceros in Gonarezhou National Park (GNP).
The animals are to be moved to the park before the end of the year.
Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GTC) has graduated the rangers at Chipinda Pools airstrip.
In line with the GCT mandate of employing from communities within 15km radius of GNP, a majority of the graduates (32) are drawn from the local communities and the rest are from around Zimbabwe.
The rangers underwent four months training that exposed them to weaponry, foot and arms drill, tracking, battle tactics, map reading, radio communication and anti-poaching operations among other things.
“The trained rangers are expected to deliver conservation duties in GNP such as anti-poaching patrols among others,” said GNP senior area manager, Evious Mpofu.
“This is also to boost our security as we move to re-introduce rhinos in the park which will happen anytime this year,” he added in an interview with the Lowveld Post.
It is anticipated the presence of the rangers would address such prevalent issues as poaching in the form of hunting with dogs, wire snaring and fish netting in the Save and Runde rivers.
These remain a challenge especially in Mahenye and Chipinda villages.
Earlier this year a village head in Mahenye area was arrested after he was found in possession of wildlife carcasses at his home which were killed during poaching in the park.
GCT is a partnership between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FSZ) which is from Germany.
Security levels at Zimbabwe’s second largest park, after Hwange, have improved, enhancing the chances of the introduction of the rhino.
According to GCT, the last of the original black rhino population in the area was killed sometime between the 1930s and 1940s.
A reintroduction project between 1969 and 1977 brought 77 black rhino back into the area. The population almost doubled to 140 before the civil war in neighbouring Mozambique resulted in Gonarezhou’s closure to the public.
By 1994, the black rhino population went extinct for the second time.