Our Partner and Collaborator

Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation

 

Technology and Innovation in Conservation: Rhino Monitoring in Imire

WeWild Africa is proud to partner with Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation, a distinguished conservation area in Zimbabwe renowned for its dedication to the protection and breeding of endangered species, especially rhinos. Imire’s extensive history in wildlife conservation and community engagement makes them an invaluable ally. Over the past two years, our collaboration has focused both exciting rewilding projects and on monitoring of both black and white rhinos. 

About Imire:

  • Diverse Ecosystem and Species: Imire hosts a range of flora and fauna, with wildlife species including but not limited to elephants, buffaloes, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, and over 200 bird species. 
  • Rhino Conservation Leadership: Imire is particularly noted for its successful breeding and release programs for both white and black rhinos. These efforts are crucial given the drastic decline in rhino populations in Zimbabwe during the 1980s, from over 10,000 to less than 1,000, primarily due to extreme poaching stemming from the war.
  • Research and Data Collection: Field research at Imire includes studying the social ethology of black and white rhinoceroses within the conservation site. This involves tracking their behavior patterns and comparing these with wild and free-roaming counterparts, thus contributing to the understanding of their evolution, ecology, morphology, and nutrition.
  • Volunteer Involvement and Education: Volunteers at Imire engage in various conservation tasks, including tracking rhinos, monitoring elephant movements and behavior, and much more, all under the guidance of experienced professionals. 
  • Rewilding Programs: WeWild Africa also supports Imire in rewilding captive-born animals, such as two cheetahs, Kumbe and Jabari, born in Canada.

Overview of Rhino Tracking Technology

Rhino tracking technology has significantly evolved over the years, playing a crucial role in the monitoring, protecting, and understanding of these animals. WeWild Africa is on the cutting edge of conservation technology, continuously innovating and exploring new ways to best manage wildlife. 

In this example, we explored implanting satellite units in rhino horns. However, it was found to only really be effective in male (bull) white rhinos due to their larger horn size. With the smaller-horned black rhino and females, we found that the device had trouble staying put.  

Here are some examples of ways in which rhino can currently be tracked (2023): 

  • VHF Collars and Anklets: These emit a pulsed radio signal, allowing for physical location tracking using a receiver and antenna. They are affordable, reliable, and versatile, with a battery life of up to three years. Initially, Very High Frequency (VHF) devices were attached using neck collars, but due to rhinos’ large, tapering necks, these often caused lesions or slipped off. Anklets were more successful, yet they risked injuring the rhino’s leg and frequently broke upon contact with natural obstacles.
  • GPS Tracking Collars: These collars provide remote, regular updates on the animal’s location using GPS technology. They can be combined with VHF capabilities for more comprehensive monitoring. However, they are more expensive and have shorter battery life due to their high power demands.
  • VHF Horn Transmitters: VHF devices implanted in rhino horns have become a mainstay in tracking technology. Despite occasional issues with device quality, they generally offer a reliable means of tracking. These transmitters naturally exit the horn after 18-24 months, avoiding the need to re-dart the animal for removal.
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags: These small, low-energy devices are attached to a rhino’s ear and are particularly useful for monitoring young, dispersing rhinos. RFID readers installed at strategic locations, like waterholes, help in tracking these animals.
  • IoT Devices: Emerging IoT devices transmit GPS and other data over wireless networks. Their small size makes them suitable for horn implantation. However, there’s ongoing development to enhance their durability and performance for reliable use in rhino tracking.

WeWild Africa is committed to actively exploring innovative technologies to enhance our conservation efforts and minimize long-term costs. We are grateful for the collaboration with Imire and their dedicated team. Looking ahead, we are eager to strengthen our enduring partnership through annual rewilding and rhino protection projects.

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