Translocations represent exciting new times for Peace Parks and partners as vast wilderness areas are repopulated with wild animals, an important step in the regeneration of these areas for the future of both animals and humankind. There is a lot of excitement around the movement of the animals, and, when the trucks roll through towns, children come out to wave, hoping to catch a glimpse of the exotic cargo. Though it is hard to imagine, some of these children who grow up in Africa may never have encountered wild animals such wildebeest and zebra.

Eventually, the trucks reach Zinave National Park. But few translocations run without some kind of setback. This time it is the wildebeest trucks that are held up at the border as extra checks are required due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this is also part of the long process of rewilding Africa, for which much patience and determination is required. The most important thing is to get the wildebeest back into the bush. When all 62 wildebeest finally bolt out of the trucks, the operation is deemed a success.

The zebra get through the border quickly. When the trucks back up to the pre-prepared release site the crew check the animals from open hatches on top of the trucks. When the door is finally opened, the crew encourages the animals to move along the truck towards the exit. It is the tensest moment of the whole operation, when the whole crew hopes that each and every animal has survived the journey.

When 27 zebra, including the little foal, are released, safe and in good condition, it is cause for quiet celebration in the knowledge that these animals will be able to enjoy the vast landscape of Zinave National Park. It is only when the zebra leave the truck, stopping to nibble on some grass, that the crew knows the job is finally done.

Zinave National Park covers 408,000 hectares of which 18 600 hectares is a wildlife sanctuary with extra protection to foster the multiplication of animals. It is a project spearheaded by the Mozambican government, initiated in 2015 in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation. This relationship is secured under a 20-year co-management agreement with the restoration and reintroduction of wildlife as one of the main goals. The counter-poaching team in Zinave consists of well-trained and fully equipped men and women who are passionate about protecting the wildlife. They understand only too well just how important these animals are to all their futures. Repopulating the park with wild animals, and keeping them safe so that they go on to breed, is a vital step in regenerating the area for sustainable tourism and positive futures for all who live in the area.

So far, over 10 species have been introduced, totalling more than 2400 animals. The introduction of more zebra and wildebeest will boost the population of grazers in Zinave, playing a vital role in the ecosystem by providing more game in the food chain for large predators like hyena. Grazers also play a role in managing the landscape. They remove the long grasses from the veld, allowing the less abundant broad-leafed, herbaceous plants to flourish and other, new species to invade the available space. This is important to encourage biodiversity of habitat for a wider range of plant, insect and animal species. Grazing also helps reduces the intensity and frequency of savannah fires as much of the ‘fuel’ is eaten!

The restoration of Zinave National Park is one of southern Africa’s most remarkable conservation success stories. Through collaborations like this one, Zinave National Park gains a new dynamic in terms of local tourism, unlocking new employment opportunities for the communities living close to the park.

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