Arts & Culture

Rhino Protection Team: Eyes on the Rhino

By Mirriam Nasilele

Zambia joined the international community commemorating World Rhino Day on Friday 22 September. A critical mission is underway in the heart of Mosi-oa-tunya National Park. The “Rhino Protection Team,” is an initiative established to protect the endangered rhino species in Mosi-oa-tunya National Park, situated in the southern part of Zambia about five kilometers from the business area and 16 km up from Victoria Falls. The park is surrounded by urban areas making it susceptible to various existing challenges, necessitating dedicated efforts to safeguard its wildlife, especially the rhinos.

Rhinos are at momentous risk due to the illegal wildlife trade driven by the poaching of their horns. The demand for rhino horns, driven by unfounded beliefs regarding their medicinal properties and cultural significance, fuels this illicit trade, posing a severe threat to the rhino population and their existence.

Zambia in the 1960s witnessed a devastating decline in the black rhino population due to poaching, leading to their extinction between the 1970s and 1980s. In response to this crisis, the National Rhino Conservation Plan was formulated in 2003, involving a Rhino Specialist Group comprising experts. This group collaborated to devise a comprehensive strategy aimed at protecting rhinos and their habitats.

As part of this strategy, a rhino reintroduction program was initiated. The program aimed to re-establish rhino populations in national parks: Black rhinos were reintroduced in North Luangwa National Park, while white rhinos were introduced in Mosi-oa-tunya National Park. Concurrently, a Rhino Protection Team was established in Mosi-oa-tunya in 2008 to ensure the protection and well-being of the rhino species in the respective parks.

The Rhino Protection Team, an important component of this initiative, plays a vital role in executing anti-poaching efforts, monitoring rhino populations, conducting habitat preservation, and collaborating with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of rhino conservation. Their dedication and vigilance are instrumental in ensuring a future where rhinos thrive in their natural habitats and remain a cherished part of Zambia’s wildlife heritage. This was emphasised during an interview with Wildlife Senior Warden, Andrew Mukupa and Principal Wildlife Police Officer, Ferry Muntanga, from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

Andrew further emphasised that over the last three years, the park has celebrated three new births among the rhino population, a testament to the favourable conditions and dedicated conservation efforts in place. The Rhino Protection Team is extending a resounding call to all individuals, urging them to come together and tackle this critical challenge. By supporting ongoing initiatives aimed at combating nature crime, particularly focusing on the safeguarding of endangered species, we can collectively strive to prevent history from tragically repeating itself. It’s a shared responsibility to ensure a future where these magnificent creatures can thrive, and their populations can grow sustainably.


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