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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : October 2000 : Rhino breeder may lose his land

Rhino breeder may lose his land

Calgary Herald
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 baby thrives.

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 pregnancy.

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 beings.

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 here.''

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.



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