By NORMA TSOPO
BRITISH royalty Prince Harry’s African Parks organisation has entered a partnership with the Zimbabwe government’s national parks (Zimparks) to revive the country’s neglected flagship rhino haven with a US$8 million investment over the next five years.
Matusadona National Park also known as Kariba National Park which measures 1,407km2 which lies on the north-west shores of Lake Kariba used to be home to 35 percent of Zimbabwe’s black rhino population.
Their population was decimated by years of neglect and syndicate-led poaching.
The iconic park was created in 1958 when conservationist Rupert Fothergill orchestrated “Operation Noah” and moved animals away from the newly constructed Kariba Dam.
Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the highlight of the agreement would be to reintroduce the black rhinoceros which has been completely wiped out from the park by poaching. The few rhinos that survived at the height of the onslaught were shipped to other secure areas.
Writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago, after his visit to Africa, Prince Harry said, “Matusadona is a very special place for Zimbabwe and has a lot of potential for tourism and socio-economic development.”
The profile and wide international goodwill of Prince Harry, who was officially named African Parks’ president in December 2017, is expected to be a major boost for the park at a time when Zimbabwe’s international reputation is in tatters.
The joint venture between African Parks and Zimparks gives the new investor a shareholding of 49 percent with the Zimbabwe government, through Zimparks, retaining 51 percent.
The deal was signed by Africa Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead and Zimparks director general Fulton Mangwanya last week on Friday.
At the signing, Fearnhead emphasised that his organisation was working in 10 African countries and managing more than 10-million animals in 16 parks and working in Zimbabwe would be routine.
“It’s a business structured deal that should see us working together for the next 20 years. Day-to-day running of the park will be an inclusive affair on a rotational basis,” said Farawo.
Considering the damage to infrastructure at the game park, the next five years will be mostly dedicated to reconstruction using money brought in by the investor.
“They have their own way of sourcing funds and in our contract within the next five years they should have ploughed in US$8m,” he said.
Profits will be shared on a quarterly basis.