A Guide to Tracking Rhinos in Zimbabwe – March 04, 2018

A Guide to Tracking Rhinos in Zimbabwe – March 04, 2018

I felt like a downright trailblazer as I trekked through the grassy plains of Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, hopscotching over fallen branches and crunchy, dried leaves.

Up ahead, a group of fellow explorers had formed a tight semicircle, with their eyes fixed to the ground and grins stretching from ear to ear. I picked up my pace and caught up, only to be met with a steaming pile of … poop.

The fanfare had nothing to do with the dung itself, but rather what it represented. These droppings were fresh; they had been left by an adult southern white rhino that was likely just minutes ahead of us on the trail. At that moment, we made a silent pact: move swiftly, remain quiet and, hopefully, see one of these majestic creatures up close.

Don’t let the name fool you — white rhinos aren’t “white,” but rather light gray in color. They are also much larger than their darker counterparts and have a longer head and wider mouth, according to Jay Parmar, owner of U.S.-based tour operator Wander Africa. Another helpful identifier? You guessed it: the animal’s poop. While the waste of black rhinos is made of splint-like materials — usually chopped off at a 45-degree angle — white rhinos will produce a much grassier manure.

The park, which is located in central Zimbabwe, has populations of both black and southern white rhinos. We were tracking the latter — a species of grazers introduced to the area in 1964 from neighboring South Africa, according to Emmerson Magodhi, tourism manager for Matobo. White rhinos are found in multiple parts of the park, while black rhinos are confined to a special game area. An Intensive Protection Zone distinction protects these creatures from poachers, and armed security rangers patrol 24 hours per day (we were accompanied by one such ranger throughout our visit).

Matobo also attracts tourists for its many hiking trails, unique landscape and rich history; the land features rock art left by ancient dwellers and is home to the grave of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes. It’s also only about a 40-minute drive from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city and an international hub serviced by South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates and more.

Tracking rhinos here is much like a game of hide-and-seek, and it’s a task made easier by using the animal’s “natural” clues, and the fact that these so-called “hiders” tend to move very slowly, only changing sleeping positions once every 30 to 40 minutes.

“Rhino tracking is one of those rare opportunities in life for tourists to come close to an animal that is a ‘world over’ while in its natural environment,” Magodhi said. “It is one of the most adventurous experiences one can do in their lifetime.”

We walked for just five minutes more, and then we saw them: two white rhinos, their slate-gray hue serving as a form of camouflage against a background of towering granite rocks. The pair patiently allowed us to play paparazzi — not a bad ending to our grown-up game of hide-and-seek.

Booking Tips
A rhino-tracking experience needs to be booked with the park at least one or two days in advance. Those interested in reserving this should contact park officials at malemetourism@gmail.com or matoboparks@gmail.com.

Emmerson Magodi – extract from travelagewest – http://www.travelagewest.com/Travel/Adventure-Travel/A-Guide-to-Tracking-Rhinos-in-Zimbabwe/#.WqqFhGZ7HOQ


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Zimparks guns down hippo in Nyanyadzi

August 31, 2017August 31, 2017
Inset from Zimpapers. THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority last week shot dead a hippopotamus that was damaging winter wheat in Nyanyadzi. The hippo, which had a calf, is believed to have escaped from Save Conservancy. ZPWMA ordered the shooting of the hippos after traditional leaders in the area reported that it was damaging crops and endangering lives. ZPWMA officer, Mr John Danfa, said they were still hunting for the calf which is believed to have found habitat along Save River. “Usually hippos move up and down rivers during the rainy season. We believe the two escaped from Save Valley Conservancy. They were both females and they do not usually click if there is no male. “They are believed to have separated. We received reports from traditional leaders in Hot Springs and Nyanyadzi that these hippos were feeding on wheat and crops in their fields.” “People’s lives were endangered so the authorities ordered its killing. The first time we attempted to kill it, it was in the company of so many cattle and could not do anything. Our officer teamed up with villagers to track it until last week when it was shot down in Nyanyadzi”. The officer is said to have fired 12 shots before the hippo died. The meat was shared by villagers. One of the villagers in Dirikwe village, Mr Tapiwa Munyati, said: “This hippo was becoming a threat to human lives in the area. It was being spotted near homes at night. “There are vegetable gardens along one of Save River’s tributaries where it was being spotted.“We were told that hippos do not like light and the danger was that lives would have been lost.” “A villager survived death by a whisker recently when the hippo strayed into his homestead.“He went out of his house to investigate when his dogs were barking. He had a torch and the hippo advanced towards him. “Fortunately he managed to escape the attack and notified other villagers and the village head. We are appealing to the responsible authorities to make sure that the remaining one is also killed,” said Mr Munyati.