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Project overview

What? White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum); Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis); Leopard (Panthera pardus); Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

Why? The Matobo Hills, which includes Zimbabwe’s oldest national park, were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003

How? Using a holistic approach that involves the community in helping to protect the area

Where? Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe, southern Africa

When? Since 1997

Our mission: To conserve the unique environment of this area and the critically endangered animals that call it home

Dambari Wildlife Trust

We’ve been working to protect the habitat of the Matobo Hills by supporting the Dambari Wildlife Trust, which is based in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

Our work with Dambari has changed over time. We initially focused on the conservation and management of rhinos, large carnivores and small antelope.

Since 2011, we have adopted a new approach, called Conservation Across Boundaries, which reflects our belief that the success of conservation relies on a holistic approach that recognises the need for humans and nature to coexist.

We aim to ensure that the conservation and sustainable use of the area’s incredible landscape and wildlife can continue long into the future, working with local people to raise awareness and secure cooperative and collaborative relationships that can endure and grow over time.

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The Matobo National Park is one of the few remaining areas that contains populations of both black and Southern white rhinoceros.

Through our support of Dambari Wildlife Trust, they research and monitor these magnificent animals to ensure that they remain an integral part of this unique environment for generations to come. Their work provides valuable information about how the rhinos use the park and this informs how the park is managed.

We have helped to ensure the survival of both black and white rhinos in Matobo National Park despite the regional poaching crisis, through ranger patrols and initiatives such as de-horning.

We also support the ex-situ population of black rhinos, as we have a pair of animals at Paignton Zoo that are part of EAZA’s ex-situ breeding programme.

See Paignton’s rhinos

A holistic approach

Since we started working with Dambari Wildlife Trust, Zimbabwe has suffered sustained periods of economic uncertainty and civil unrest, making operations and long-term planning challenging.

Despite this, we have been able to implement a range of community-based activities to support both the wildlife and the communities that live in the area, including:

  • An initiative to protect livestock from leopards and hyenas, reducing the number of reprisal killings
  • Management of natural resources, such as water, across 22 wards in Matobo Hills – with easier access to vital resources, this lessens the need to engage in illegal activities such as hunting in the national park
  • The creation of the Matobo Biodiversity Monitoring Project in five secondary schools, which has helped to engage more than 2,000 students since 2012
  • The creation of a university placement scheme for local students