A Mammoth Endeavour: 10 Rhinos are Dehorned at Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

A Mammoth Endeavour: 10 Rhinos are Dehorned at Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

Stewards of the Black Rhino

The Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve was established in 2000, and designated as a rhino Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) after implementing a comprehensive monitoring and breeding program, alongside an Anti-Poaching Unit & Ranger Training Facility. It has been a safe haven for its expanding black rhino population ever since, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of the reserve’s Anti-Poaching Unit ­– a team of elite Zimbabwean rangers, guided by an internationally acclaimed anti-poaching expert.

Through the Victoria Falls Black Rhino Conservation Project, our mission extends beyond monitoring and dehorning. We also play the role of educators, sowing seeds of understanding within local surrounding communities. And it’s through partnerships with the likes of Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel and Nakavango Conservation Programme that we ensure conservation is a collective endeavour. We could never do this alone…

Dehorning: A Hard, but a Necessary Choice

Poaching, a persistent menace, makes our duty even more urgent. While Zimbabwean policy mandates dehorning every three years (to be funded by us as the animals’ custodians), financial constraints imposed by COVID-19 have prevented us from dehorning our rhinos since 2017. This made the animals and the rangers ever more susceptible to attack. Facing a formidable enemy – armed and ruthless poachers – was a dangerous game we didn’t choose, but one we have had to play.

The Dynamics of The Operation

The dehorning operation was the culmination of meticulous planning, coordination, and collaboration that spanned several months. Various stakeholders played pivotal roles in this mission, including the African Wildlife Management Company, Vic Falls Wildlife Trust, Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, Zimbabwe National Parks, and Zimbabwe Republic Police. With funds raised through More Community Foundation from private donors and a group of American veterinarians—esteemed guests of The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel—the operation, costing around ZAR810,000 (US$ 45,000), lasted a challenging yet fruitful 4 days. It stood as a testament to shared vision, unwavering dedication, and adaptability.


At dawn on day 1, teams were in position, aware of the significance of their roles. Helicopters hovered, while ground teams spread out, each person using their expertise and technology to track each rhino. Each move was premeditated as rangers had already spent months monitoring the rhinos so that they could predict the routes the individual animals were likely to take when threatened. The veterinarians approached each dehorning with precision, ensuring the least distress to the rhinos. The rangers, on the other hand, stood alert, safeguarding the rhinos in their most exposed and vulnerable moments. Radios crackled, guiding teams and updating statuses. Two rhinos before lunch, and two after… And so it went for just over four full days. As the sun dipped on the final day, aptly being World Rangers’ Day, there was a palpable sense of achievement, understanding the significance of what had been accomplished. 10 rhinos (and their caregivers) were now safe!

Heartbeats of the Operation

For Picket Chabwedzeka, Reserve Manager of Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, the operation was deeply personal. “Dehorning at Victoria Falls signifies a 17-year legacy of zero poaching. I’ve been part of this mission for seven of those years, witnessing the birth of five rhinos. The last six years, with our rhinos bearing their horns, was a period of immense tension. The threat to both rhinos and rangers was real. It saddens me that we have to dehorn these creatures for their survival, but I’m immensely grateful to everyone who made this project a success.

Forward, Together

Says Michelle Scott, General Manager of the More Community Foundation, “Our commitment to wildlife is sacrosanct. The unity, planning, and dedication exhibited here today were extraordinary and inspiring. I’m eternally grateful to the incredible people who came together, orchestrating a day that remains a highlight of my career. This will be a memory I’ll cherish forever.

Together, we continue our journey through the Victoria Falls Black Rhino Conservation Project, demonstrating that unity, determination and resilience strengthen our resolve and fortifies our efforts to be the voice and protection for those who cannot speak or fight for themselves.

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