Words by Natasha Anderson
In 2012 Lowveld Rhino Trust will be embarking on an
exciting campaign to help raise awareness amongst rural
Zimbabwe communities about the plight of the last few
rhinos remaining in Zimbabwe. LRT will be implementing
a rhino awareness program focusing on rural primary
schools adjacent to the large South East Lowveld rhino
conservancies. The main towns in these areas are Chiredzi,
Masvingo and Mutare.
The South East Lowveld is home to over 80% of Zimbabwe’s
rhinos and so is a key area for rhino conservation. Local
communities have a powerful role to play in the survival of
the rhinoceros but generally their level of understanding
of the issues involved is limited due to a lack of access to
relevant information and training. LRT will be helping to
solve this problem by providing relevant teaching materials
and teacher training in the use of these materials.
The Lowveld Rhino Trust has been involved in rhino conservation in the Lowveld since the early 1990s. Then known as the Rhino Conservancies Projects under WWF, this project translocated black rhinos into the Lowveld from the Zambezi Valley which was suffering severe rhino poaching pressure at the time. Over the last 20 years these rhino populations have grown at some of the fastest rates ever recorded for black rhinos and have proven to be very successful populations. Recently poaching pressure has been on the increase and rhinos are facing a critical period. By raising awareness and working together we believe it will be possible to constructively engage rural communities in the conservation of these magnificent animals.
The teacher training program will involve the running of short workshops in primary schools adjacent to the main rhino areas. Roughly four teachers from each school in the area will participate in the workshops. The training is designed to inform teachers of the conservation status of rhinos and provide training in the use of the ‘Rhino Cards’ which are educational materials developed specifically for use in Zimbabwean primary schools. Each school will receive a complete set of the ‘Rhino Cards’ during their teacher training. We anticipate that 150 schools will be part of this program, therefore an estimated 600 teachers will be trained under this LRT funded training initiative.