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07 January 2015

After Zimbabwe experienced very high levels of rhino poaching in 2008 and 2009, the situation was largely brought under control and stabilized over the following years. Indeed, 2014 showed the lowest levels of poaching across the country in over 10 years, with only 20 animals lost in the entire year.

Unfortunately, 2015 saw a negative turn of events.

Total Poaching Zimbabwe 5 Jan 2016

(Note that these are minimum figures and only represent those losses that are known to LRT - there can be time lags in finding carcasses in large areas such as conservancies)

LRT is aware of at least 50 rhinos that were poached in Zimbabwe in 2015, of which 42 were black rhinos. The majority of losses were suffered in the region that contains the only Zimbabwe populations that are regarded by IUCN as being genetically and demographically viable – the Lowveld Conservancies.

Unfortunately, this increase in poaching has resulted in an overall downturn of Zimbabwe’s rhino population. While rhinos had been steadily recovering from 2010, there was a negative trend in 2015.

Zimbabwe Rhino Population Status 5 Jan 2016

The primary protection effort for the Lowveld rhinos is made by the private sector custodians of the rhinos, while the Lowveld Rhino Trust performs a supporting role in various aspects of the Lowveld conservation effort. This includes an independent ‘auditing’ role, through intensive rhino monitoring, based upon individual rhino identifications.

Despite 2015 being a year of overall population decline, it ended with some significant successes against well-established poaching syndicates in Save Valley and Bubye Valley conservancies. Amongst those arrested was one hardcore poacher who, after decades of poaching activity, was finally convicted to a jail sentence of 20-35 years (depending upon whether he pays compensation for four rhinos which he admitted killing).

It is significant that none of the main syndicate poachers who were arrested come from local communities, and the hardcore poachers in fact include a Zambian component. This information gives further reason for the Lowveld Rhino Trust’s ongoing emphasis on engaging the generally law-abiding communities in the Lowveld in productive partnerships for rhino conservation.

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