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Gonarezhou Conservation Trust

Partnering to protect Zimbabwe's ‘Place of Elephants’

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Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou. Photo: Norbert Guthier/FZS
Situated in the remote south-east of Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park occupies an area of more than 5,000 square kilometres. The landscape featuring the 180 metres high Chilojo Cliffs is shaped by river incisions of sandstone.

Gonarezhou means ‘place of elephants’ in Zimbabwe’s Shona language. Population estimates regularly exceed 10,000 animals. The dry savanna woodlands with their diverse plant communities, the four river basins and the extensive pans provide habitat for a regionally unique community of reptiles and amphibians, an estimated 500 species of birds, 50 species of fish and about150 species of mammals, including Nyala antelopes and growing populations of predators like lions and African wild dogs.

Gonarezhou National Park is an integral part of one of the largest conservation areas in the world. The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park connects protected areas of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa in a conservation area covering about 35,000 square kilometres.

A Conservation Partnership

In 2007, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) invited Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) to enter into an agreement for the support of Gonarezhou National Park. FZS supported the development of a 10-year General Management Plan through a consultative stakeholder process. It serves as a blueprint for all management activities.

One of the main objectives of the FZS Gonarezhou Conservation Project was to introduce rhinos, but several limitations, one of which was inadequate manpower, prevented this. Exploring options to finance staff salaries and based on the trust between FZS and the Zimbabwean wildlife management authority, the idea of the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GCT) was born.

Today, the GCT is a local registered Trust in Zimbabwe with a mandate to assume management responsibility of the Gonarezhou National Park. The Trust officially started to operate in March 2017 and good progress has been made. It is foreseen that rhinos could be introduced to Gonarezhou in 2019.

Structure and staff

The Gonarezhou Conservation Trust is guided by a Board of six Trustees, nominated in equal number by ZimParks and FZS, who meet a minimum of two times per year.

The Senior Management consists of a Trust Director, Area Manager and Finance and Administration Manager, based in Chipinda Pools. A key component of the human resource policy is to employ staff from communities adjacent to the Park whenever possible.