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Our Partners:
Gap Year

 

Nzou
Norman Travers, conservationist, visionary and community leader, bought Imire in the 1950s and began farming maize, tobacco and cattle. By the 1970s, bored with conventional farming and longing for the presence of wild animals, Norman and his wife Gilly, decided to branch out into game farming and bought a herd of impala. Like Noah’s ark, the animals came in two by two and within a decade Imire was well-stocked with waterbuck, kudu, sable and eland.

Rhino conservation

During the 1980s, a decade which saw some of Zimbabwe’s worst black rhino poaching, several private game reserves including Imire, were awarded custodianship of the remaining black rhino by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to secure the future of the species in Zimbabwe. Norman decided to set up a breeding programme and, despite being derided by experts who insisted that a rhino from the dry heat of the Zambezi Valley could never survive a freezing Wedza winter, the breeding programme was very successful. Norman applied the basic farming principle of separating calves from their mothers after 12 months.

He succeeded in halving the weaning period and bringing mother’s back into oestrus much sooner - the typical two and a half year weaning period plus 15 months gestation would be too slow to stabilise the drastically reducing rhino population.

 

Over the next 30 years the Travers’ hard work in rhino conservation was successful, with 16 births on Imire. 11 rhino were released into the Matusadona National Park in the north of Zimbabwe as part of the National Parks release programme in the 1990s, and one male was sent to a private reserve in Botswana. The release programme was stopped due to excessive poaching in the Matusadona area, and there is now a severe lack of funds available for monitoring rhino numbers across the country, with the black rhino again facing extinction.

Despite set-backs and poaching incidents of the their own, Imire’s black rhino conservation programme continues. At present we have three sub-adult black rhinos, one male and two female, plus two female calves: Tafika, born in November 2014 and Tafara, born in December 2016. In additoin, Imire is also home to two adult white rhino.

Pioneering elephant and buffalo work

In 1980, Norman was given an orphaned baby elephant by a sanctuary in Harare. He trained him, using rewards and kindness rather than the Indian mahouts punishment techniques. Norman is known for being the first person to habituate an African elephant - going against the traditional view that an African elephant was safe only behind a high fence.

The bull elephant and Nzou, Imire's lone female at the time, were put with a herd of buffalo, the largest herd animal on Imire at the time. Norman unwittingly discovered another nuance of elephant behaviour - that they could take on the identity of a species other than their own.

Norman also pioneered the introduction of wild buffalo onto farmland in the 1980s. Scientists at a research station near Harare had developed a nucleus of foot-and-mouth free buffalo and needed to test their hypothesis that buffalo could live in normal cattle ranching land. Norman took the animals on and Imire has since become a breeding centre for foot-and-mouth free buffalo.

Imire is also pioneering the reintroduction of the sable antelope into Zimbabwe and have a well-established sable breeding programme. Our vision is to continue Norman’s idea of a breeding nucleus and gene pool for animals to be reintroduced to safe areas across Zimbabwe.

Volunteering at Imire

Imire’s wildlife conservation volunteer programme was established in 2005 by Norman’s grandson, Reilly, with the aim of enabling international visitors to experience Norman’s work and ethos and to establish community and conservation projects across the game park.

Since our volunteer programme began we have seen the positive impact which volunteers can have on the community and the conservation of our environment.

Volunteers assist in every aspect of the game park as well as helping empower and educate the local community in wildlife conservation and environmental issues. To find out more about what our volunteers do, click here.

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