© 2011 Sabrina Swenson. All Rights Reserved.
Volunteering at Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation, Zimbabwe
My first trip to Zimbabwe was 20 years ago. I had heard about the magnificent Victoria Falls and wanted to see them for myself. I went over the falls repeatedly in an ultralight. The magnitude and roar were fantastic. No one can compete with these mighty falls!
Fast forward 20 years and I looked forward to Zimbabwe once again. This time I decided to do some volunteer work with animals. Africa and animals are two of my favourite things. After much research, I decided on Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation.
Upon arrival I found Zimbabwe to have far better infrastructure than the first time I visited. I was picked up and driven to Imire. There were several other volunteers ranging in ages from early 20’s to 80. We were assigned our volunteer quarters tent and met for a briefing.
The rhino and elephant at Imire are all orphans. As such, they were raised by humans and can be approached. Although I’ve been on safari many times, you can’t compete with being able to stand next to and touch them. We hand fed them on several days. Most interesting was the rhino. I discovered rhino only have teeth on the sides, not the front. I never thought rhinos were particularly cute until I met the two teenagers at Imire. Feeding the intelligent elephants was a treat as well. Standing next to Mack, the largest, was a humbling experience. In the evenings, the elephants wander, on their own, to a large boma (enclosure), for the evening. The rangers can keep a closer watch on them. Poachers, after their ivory, are a never-ending threat in Africa. In the morning, the elephants wander out on their own and don’t return again until dusk. As volunteers, we had the “joy” of cleaning their boma. Some of us would bring over wheelbarrows while others would fill them with the very large elephant poop! We wheeled them out and returned for more. Pungent!
Throughout the week we did a variety of tasks including picking up trash along the roadside (for which there was no shortage). We cut down fast-growing eucalyptus trees, debarked them and built horse stables. We talked with the anti-poaching rangers and learned about their 24/7 protection of the animals on the reserve. We also got to see the anti-poaching dog, a Dutch Shepard, in action. The rangers gave us many pointers on shooting (they don’t miss) and we tried our new skills by playing paintball. We also loaded hay bales on trucks and redistributed them in the elephant boma. The week was filled with activities.
One day, one of the volunteers was in his tent and saw the outline of a very large snake slither between the bottom of his tent and the cement slab upon which it was resting. Two “snake wranglers” were called and after an hour plus, they were finally able to grab the very large cobra with their snake gripper and move him down the road. I was so happy I wasn’t assigned that particular tent. The volunteer quarters were out in the bush with no fences what-so-ever. From that point on, any sound in my tent at night woke me. There are many sounds in the wilds of Zimbabwe. Sleep was fleeting.
My time at Imire was a treat. I highly suggest it!