Project ReWild Zambezi

Project Rewild Zambezi

“When I was approached to assist the Savé Valley Conservancy with what they have assessed as an overpopulation of wildlife problem, I knew that this was something we HAD to do. So I simply said, “YES.”
Dereck Joubert
Great Plains CEO, National Geographic Explorer

A list of animals included in this document is in need of a new home, and Great Plains has a 280,000-acre private concession along Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, called the Sapi Reserve.

It is the perfect solution for many reasons. This reserve forms the middle-Zambezi biosphere, totalling 1.6 million acres. From the 1950s until we took it over in 2017, decades of hunting had decimated wildlife populations in Sapi Reserve. We are rewilding and restoring the wild back to what it once was.

We are about to embark on one of the largest wildlife relocations in Southern Africa’s history.

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This is an urgent appeal because of tight timelines, and a wildlife overpopulation of what can reasonably be managed at Source (SVC). An underpopulation at Target (Sapi Reserve) has led Great Plains to advance plans to restore, rewild and protect this essential ecosystem. We strongly believe that with wildlife in decline across the globe, we need to do what we can to protect and enhance biodiversity.

We are now raising funds ($5.5 million) to relocate over 3,000 animals from the Savé Valley Conservancy into the Sapi Reserve starting in June 2022.

This consignment of animals includes 400 elephants and iconic species like lions, buffalo, impala, zebras, painted dogs, eland, and more. Once released in the Sapi Reserve, the animals will be free to roam into the wider 1.6 million-acre UNESCO site.

Permits have been issued and paid for, and the Zimbabwe government sanctions this initiative. We are now working with communities bordering the Sapi Reserve to get involved and to further educate and recruit.

This is more than a movement; it is an event! One that will change the face of Zimbabwe’s unique valley, so we are using the opportunity to expand our ranger operations in Sapi to protect this influx of wildlife, prevent human-wildlife conflict, and support broader wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching in the Zambezi Valley.

This includes training, supplies, and equipment for the ZimParks rangers and the recruitment of 12 female wildlife monitors from surrounding Sapi communities initially and expanding as needed to a team of 70 people. The Project will also have a state-of-the-art control room, camera traps and improved road and radio networks. ZimParks’ limited budget means that the responsibility of funding and managing this project falls to us.

Translocation Team Qualifications

Under Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s leadership, the project will be led by Dr Sven Bourquin and Michele Hofmeyer.

Dr. Sven Bourquin holds a PhD in conservation ecology through South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch. He has extensive experience working with large carnivores and reptiles in Botswana. He joined Great Plains in 2017 and is responsible for amongst other initiatives, our Rhino’s Without Borders project. With twenty years experience in Botswana, Sven leads our rhino monitoring teams and assists them by tracking the rhino from the air using ultralight airplanes.

Michele Hofmeyer, Great Plains’ Sustainability Manager, is an Environmental Ecologist and Botanist with 27-years of experience, including with SANParks as Research Manager in the Scientific Services Department in Kruger National Park. Michele now oversees our reforestation and habitat restoration programs and our carbon program. They will be supported by Great Plains in Zimbabwe, South Africa, the US and the UK.

We will work closely with wildlife veterinarians and game capture experts from the Savé Valley Conservancy, ZimParks staff ecologists and Anti-Poaching and Tracking Specialists (ATS) to ensure the success of the effort and the safety of the animals.

Research Goals

This initiative sees us collaborating with the University of Washington-Seattle’s Centre for Environmental Forensic Science under Dr Sam Wasser and Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. Academic partnerships will draw scholars from within Zimbabwe. Non-Academic partnerships include working closely with the Government of Zimbabwe, specifically ZimParks rangers and staff ecologists and building supportive relationships with conservation stakeholders throughout the Zambezi Valley throughout the project.

Our aim is to initiate one of the largest translocations of wildlife in history but also to develop a working blueprint for doing large scale relocations across Africa.

Project Time Frame
Now – June 2022 Strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, baseline vegetation surveys, fundraising, security and ground assessments.
June – September 2022 Establishment of a wildlife monitoring base and recruitment of additional wildlife monitoring units including female rangers.
May – September 2022 & May – September 2023 Wildlife translocations. Relocations must occur during these months due to weather conditions.
2024 Ongoing security and monitoring operations
Species Quantity
Elephant 400
Impala 2000
* Giraffe 70
Eland 50
* Zebra 50
* Wildebeest 50
Buffalo 50
Wild Dogs, 1 pack 10
Lion, 2 prides 10
Other Species 310

* Species to be relocated to an alternate location.

Project Budget

Over the three years, the initial budget for this project is $5.5 million. This includes relocation costs associated with capturing and relocating the animals and the investment costs for continued ongoing operational costs of security & monitoring in Sapi over a three-year timeline. In the budget are patrol vehicles, aircraft time, infrastructure and communications upgrades, support to ZimParks rangers (rations, fuel, uniforms), and the training and deployment of our new team of 12 female rangers.

High-level Project Budget (2022 – 2024)
Expense (US D0llars) 2022 2023 2024 Total Cost (3yrs)

Translocation

$880,000

$950,000

$1,830,000

Security & Monitoring: Capital Investment (ex. road network improvements, wildlife, monitoring camp, vehicle, telemetry, and radio equipment)

$1,134,000

$173,000

$1,307,000

Security & Monitoring: Operational (ex. Ranger’s salaries and uniforms, fuel, rations, communications costs)

$668,000

$833,000

$857,000

$2,360,00

Total

$2,682,000

$1,954,000

$858,000

$5,500,000