Exciting times lie ahead for the future of Zinave National Park as they are set to be hosting the first founder population of both the critically endangered black rhino and near threatened white rhino in a Mozambican national park since 40 years ago. Through the reintroduction of this iconic keystone species, Zinave is set to become the first ‘Big 5’ national park in Mozambique.

In 2016, a long-term co-management agreement was signed between Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and Peace Parks Foundation to jointly develop Zinave National Park as an integral component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.  Great Limpopo is a globally important cross-border conservation area spanning over 100 000km2. It incorporates five national parks, one of which is one of South Africa’s top tourist attractions, the world-renowned Kruger National Park. After two decades of continued rewilding efforts, Zinave National Park, situated in Mozambique’s Inhambane Province, is well on its way to becoming one of Mozambique’s flagship parks.

Since 2016, over 2 300 animals representing 14 different species have been reintroduced, including buffalo, leopard and elephant. In September 2020, the first lions were recorded in Zinave after being absent from the park for over 40 years. It is believed that they entered from a neighbouring protected area, an important indicator that Zinave’s concentrated rewilding and protection efforts have indeed paid off. You can watch Zinave’s tough ranger selection programme here. To ensure their safety, the rhino will be translocated to a specially constructed 30 000 ha high-security sanctuary within Zinave National Park.

Now, the Governments of Mozambique and South Africa have announced the planned reintroduction of 40 rhinos over the next couple of years to Zinave National Park, which have been donated by long-term donor and supporter of conservation, Exxaro Resources. The diversified resources company conducted careful evaluation and in-depth feasibility studies of potential landing sites before settling on Zinave.

It is remarkable to see how far Zinave has come and the transformation that it has undergone through dedicated rewilding and restoration efforts. What was once a silent landscape where not even the shrill cry of a cicada was heard, has been transformed into a thriving, soon-to-be Big 5 national park. This is a shining example of what can be achieved through successful collaboration between governments, conservationists and communities.

This translocation has been made possible with thanks to South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the Mozambique Ministry of Land and the Environment, and Exxaro Resources. Additional funding has been provided by the German Postcode Lottery and MAVA Foundation.