2024 Edition

Aaron Gekoski

Substitute Rhinos

Guarding drills of the Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit, Zimbabwe, 2022

Category - Change Makers: Reasons for Hope

Substitute Rhinos

At the end of the last century, poachers decimated rhino populations in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. By 2007, none remained. However, a new programme – Imvelo’s Community Rhino Conservation Initiative – is now being rolled out to repopulate the plains of Africa’s third-largest National Park. In turn, it represents a paradigm shift for rhino conservation. Key to the project’s success is a team of anti-poaching rangers known as The Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit. Hailing from villages around Hwange, the Cobras are trained to British military standards and are tasked with human-wildlife conflict resolution and conservation education. In this image, the rangers conduct guarding drills in preparation for the rhinos’ arrival, where donkeys are rounded up and protected; much like the rhinos need to be. With careful management and the might of the Cobras behind them, the newly-arrived rhinos are flourishing, with more due to be reintroduced soon.

24-70mm f/2.8 Lens - 1/100 sec at f/9 ISO 320