October 28, 2000
WEDZA, Zimbabwe - Mvuu, an earless black rhinoceros, sucks on the
half-gallon bottle of vitamin- and mineral-laced milk with all the
gusto of a pregnant mother anxious to ensure that her rare and valuable
Hyenas tore off Mvuu's ears when she was a baby, but her deformity
has done nothing to deter suitors. Aged 14, she's into her third
She is part of a successful breeding program for endangered mammals
at Imire game park, about 120 kilometres east of Harare.
Imire's 3,000 hectares, small for an African wildlife reserve,
has proved that dangerous large mammals can prosper in a nearly
normal wild environment and maintain a close relationship with human
On Friday, Imire appeared on the latest ''preliminary notice to
compulsorily acquire land,'' the first step in President Robert
Mugabe's campaign to confiscate white-owned farms.
Among the 2,295 properties so far identified for resettlement of
blacks are the most highly developed agricultural estates in the
country. But even compared to scrub property, the absurdity of setting
aside Imire for subsistence agriculture is conspicuous.
''If they do take it over, there will no animals any more,'' said
John Travers, 47, who runs the park. ''It would be the end of everything
Imire's rhinos were collected in 1986 in a dramatic operation to
rescue the few score survivors of relentless poaching.
Animal scientists scorned the plans of Norman Travers, John's father,
to breed rhino alongside cattle.
The Traverses doubled the rate of reproduction by weaning the calves
at three months. So far six calves have been successfully returned
to a specially protected rhino zone in the Zambezi valley.