September 2022 – Project Rewild Zambezi Update
Project Rewild Zambezi has successfully translocated the first 101 elephants and 184 impala on a 1,000km journey across Zimbabwe from the Savé Valley Conservancy to Great Plains Conservation’s private Sapi Reserve.
Due to an overpopulation of wildlife in Savé Valley Conservancy in Southern Zimbabwe, 3,000 animals are being translocated to restore biodiversity numbers of the underpopulated Great Plains Conservation’s private Sapi Reserve on the Zambezi River. The 128,000-hectare private Sapi Reserve is east of Mana Pools and forms part of the more expansive UNESCO World Heritage Site. This translocation includes 400 elephants and iconic species like lions, wild dogs, buffalo, and impala, to name a few.
The wildlife translocations are a collaboration between the Government of Zimbabwe, Great Plains Conservation and its Foundation, Zimbabwe National Parks (ZimParks), Savé Valley Conservancy and Sango Wildlife Conservancy to maintain healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations and support local community investment.
The physical translocations are limited to a narrow time window during southern Africa’s dry months each year, ensuring optimum translocation conditions for the welfare of the wildlife (temperatures, water availability, vegetation density etc.). The translocations, a collaboration of highly experienced and world-renowned experts, are planned over two years, and supported by long-term monitoring.
Following extensive feasibility assessments, this year saw inclusive collaborative stakeholder discussions, infrastructural preparation, security and planning, ending with the successful darting and translocation of 184 impala and the first 101 elephants (captured, moved and released in their family herds). Starting the project with this small, successful translocation has laid the groundwork and planning for the translocations in 2023.
Once released in the Great Plains-managed Sapi Reserve, the animals remain under close monitoring and management, including rangers with specialised equipment supported by both aerial and ground support and regional antipoaching units. The increase in security, monitoring and movement data in the region, in partnership with ZimParks, will act as an extra barrier and support for local communities for human-wildlife coexistence by ensuring any potential issues are observed and addressed early and efficiently.
The inclusive collaboration with local stakeholders will create long-term employment and educational opportunities for surrounding communities. Great Plains are hiring and training new security and monitoring units in Sapi Reserve with the aim to meet and exceed ZimParks’ recommendation on the number of rangers needed to secure the reserve; including an all-female ranger unit. The data (vegetation, biodiversity numbers, movements of species) collected through monitoring of all species in the area (not limited to the translocated species) will be shared with the region and government adding to databases.
The translocations for 2022 are complete and will resume in next year’s dry months. Great Plains are fundraising $5.5million for this project which encompasses the translocations themselves, ongoing security and monitoring, a fully functional research camp, and community engagement programs.