Despite losing over 33% of its prime land during the fast-track land reform programme, one of Zimbabwe’s largest conservancies, Save Valley, has offered to donate Big Five animals to smaller parks in Gokwe, Midlands, as well as Mashonaland Central and West provinces.

By Garikai Mafirakureva

The Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo.

The Big Five term is believed to have been coined by big game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but is now also widely used by safari tour operators.

The over-populated Save Valley Conservancy has issued a statement on its intended donation in response to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s decision to issue licences to other players in the industry.
The conservancy’s carrying capacity is 1 000 elephants, but the figure has almost trebled, disturbing the ecological balance in the process.

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Three conservancies set to benefit from the donation include two privately-owned, that were recently issued with permits this year to allow them to receive relocated animals from Save Valley.

The three are Chizarira National Park in Gokwe, Midlands, Sapi Safari area in Mashonaland West and Mavuradhonha in Mashonaland Central.

The exercise, which is expected to be completed in 2021, will see the relocation of around 600 elephants, an undisclosed number of lions, buffaloes, leopards and rhinos and over 2 000 impalas.

It is expected to gobble around US$3 million as costs for the expertise and transportation during the relocation exercise.

Save Valley chief operations officer Steven Vos said his organisation was in full support of the exercise as it will decongest the conservancy.

He added that he was happy that his conservancy had proved that sustainable conservation helped the country to boost the number of endangered species.

Vos also said sustainable conservation promotes continued growth of game animals, improves infrastructure development, creates employment as well as adding value to the tourism industry by spreading the big five families across the country.

“The proposed relocation is going to take place in 2020 through to 2021 following engagement with various stakeholders, and ecologists to ensure that destination landscapes are ecologically capable of sustaining the new wildlife and that adequate protection and management measures are in place,” he said.

“Save Valley Conservancy is working closely in the initial planning stages of the project with donors, ecologists, capture specialists and stakeholders to ensure the success of the proposed relocation.”

Vos added the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance has been roped in to assist during relocation of the animals.

He also said the Cabela Family Foundation gave a 100% underwriting in the project as a commitment to the conservation of the key species and ecosystem in Africa.

“Save Valley Conservancy is proud to be able to prove that sustainable use of wildlife does indeed create excess animals which can in turn be used to repopulate national parks and other related wildlife areas,” Vos said.