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Imire: Rhino and Wildlife Conservation


Imire Game Park began life as a cattle, maize and tobacco farm in the 1950s. During the 1970s, Imire made a name for itself by bringing significant numbers of game animals back to what was formerly under-used farmland. By the mid-1980s, during a period of Zimbabwe's worst rhino poaching, seven orphaned baby black rhino were translocated to Imire for their safe upbringing and the Imire Black Rhino Breeding Programme began. During the last 30 years there have been 14 black rhino born on Imire, with 11 returned to National Parks across Zimbabwe.

The Imire Volunteer Programme was established in 2005 and today provides valuable manpower to the conservancy as well as giving volunteers a unique opportunity to experience hands on wildlife conservation, focusing on the protection and security of black rhino and African elephant.



Yes, I recommend this program

Imire is absolutely, unequivocally magical. I participated in the volunteer program for 3 weeks and it was a life-changing experience. Whether working with the community (and especially the local schools), interacting with the animals or just contributing to this amazing conservation project, the work is so rewarding and presents an incredible opportunity to learn about yourself, the world around you, and most importantly, what unites all people. You work hard, you play hard, and you make memories that will last a lifetime. I've visited over 40 countries in my life and this is one of the most special places on earth. Imire is incredible beyond words.

What would you improve about this program?
If you're headed down there, some supplies are hard to get in Zimbabwe. The school always needs new laptops and educational material, while the volunteer lodge could use some board games, a few badminton rackets, and a kitchen knife sharpener. I'm sure everyone would really appreciate you bringing a few things down! :)
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Yes, I recommend this program

The volunteer program at Imire has been my favorite experience out of the 35+ countries I have traveled. Better than any safari. Every morning on my walk, I was accompanied by either African elephants or Black rhinos. I got to feed them, pet them, care for them, and bathe the elephants in the lake. The volunteer house was beyond expectations and is located right on the lake with beautiful views, good food, and an accommodating staff. At night you can hear Mumbo the lion roar.

What would you improve about this program?
I would not have changed a thing. It is a good program.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Going to Imire was a life altering experience. It is breathtakingly beautiful and manned by generous and extraordinary people who lovingly watch over and provide for the animals in their care. Being with the wise and gentle elephants and the naughty and treat-loving rhinos is beyond amazing and such a privilege.

If there is anyplace in the world where hope for the future lives, that place is Imire!

When I started travelling in Africa I told myself I would never go back to the same place twice. I was at Imire in Oct. 2014 and I'm going back in Aug. 2016. How could I not return to that little bit of heaven on earth?

What would you improve about this program?
There was not one moment of one day that I would change.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I loved this program. Spending time with local people, working and being with the elephants and Rhinos was amazing. The program is sort of a cross between a resort and a volunteer experience: Rooms are dorm style but there's a pool, delicious meals and laundry service. They limit the group to 10 people so you get a lot of hands on contact. There is some hard work (eg cutting trees with machetes) but not more than 1-2 hours a day. One of the ways that the program really serves the community is by providing jobs for 15 or so local families.

What would you improve about this program?
The time spent at the local school could have been organized better. But overall the program was great including the school visits.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I searched long and hard before settling on Imire. I wanted to do a lot of riding but also wanted to be able to volunteer in a more hands-on way and contribute to a great cause. This programme was the perfect mix of both.

The horse riding was so much more than I had ever expected. Judy was just awesome. Her knowledge and love of the conservation park (and her horses!) came through on every single ride. Her expertise in even the smallest of details was incredible and she put a real emphasis on ensuring that each ride had a purpose while being fun and exciting. Two of the best rides were the cattle driving rides. We got to ride all over the park driving cattle and making our way over some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

In addition, the staff at Imire were great in accommodating the riders so that we could also do all of the great volunteer work that others were doing. I helped take down fencing, build part of a road and spent time with the local school children teaching English and playing volleyball! I also spent tons of time with the park's truly wonderful treasures - the rhinos and elephants. I also got to spend a little bit of time with the anti-poaching team - one of the real highlights of my trip!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Jennifer Slaymaker 26 visited Imire for 2 weeks in September 2012. She is from Essex and currently works as a Duty Manager and Swimming Coordinator at a sports center just outside Cambridge. She enjoys traveling and seeing the world!

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Imire in Zimbabwe?

I had been to Zimbabwe on ALERTS Lion rehabilitation project for two years previously and had loved it!!! I decided that I should try something new in Zimbabwe and started to look into different projects.

I have always loved rhinos and the project looked like something I’d enjoy. Once I looked further into it, I came across the videos ‘There’s A Rhino in My House.'

It gave the background story of the poachers that came in and killed rhinos, leaving baby Tatenda motherless. It showed how the Travers family took care of Tatenda, especially Judy.

The care and love that the video showed immediately drew me to the project. I liked the fact that it was a family run project and that they had such a passion for what they were doing.

The more I researched I realized how varied the project would be especially with the elephants, lions, hyenas, and game around the park. So I signed up for 2 weeks at Imire in September 2012.

Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

My time at Imire was during the summer holidays and therefore the schools were shut. This meant that we didn’t go over to the school, which was a shame. But it was great meeting the staff’s families when doing different activities.

During my stay, we painted all the houses where the elephant and rhino handlers lived. This gave us time to interact with the families by playing games and speaking to all the kids. Some even helped paint the houses…and us!!

Tell me about one person you met.

I can’t single out one person!! The elephant handlers Nkosi, Blessing, and Marapyia (sorry, not too sure on the spelling) were amazing!!

Their knowledge, love for their job, and willingness to teach was a huge highlight. Even on our days off (weekends), a few of the other volunteers and I asked to spend the day with the elephants.

Nothing was too much trouble for them and they were happy to have us along with them. The way they spoke about the elephants were as if they were their children.

The three guys made my experience so much better!! They still keep in touch on the internet and keep me updated with elephant news…and of course their football team news.

What did you wish you knew before going to Zimbabwe?

I had previously visited Zimbabwe so I roughly knew what to expect. The only thing I wish I knew was how good the project would be so I could of planned to stay longer!!

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

I wouldn’t say it has changed my view as such.

It opened my eyes to the other side of poaching and although us as volunteers look at the rhino handlers and wish for jobs like that…’walking around watching the rhinos’.

The bigger picture tells a whole different story. The reasons why they are following the rhinos and the fact that they are armed brings it home. It’s a real threat and everyone seems very aware.

There has been a huge increase in trying to make people aware of how bad poaching has become and I only hope that it starts to make a difference.

I can’t imagine my children in years to come looking through my photos and not knowing what a rhino is!!! I can't bare the thought of that!!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Jane Bentley

Job Title
Imire Staff Member

Tell us a little about Imire and your role at the company.

Imire was begun as a farm in the 1950s by a Zimbabwean conservationist whose vision was to see Zimbabwe’s wildlife restored to the great levels it was in the past. He understood that game, including rhino and elephant, can thrive on what was previously just cropping and cattle farmland and that the community around conservation areas like Imire have a massive role to play in returning wildlife to the Zimbabwe bush.

Our vision is to show rural communities the benefits of game corridors and how they can use sustainable farming practices to improve their financial security as well as the well-being of the wildlife and environment they live in. My role is to create awareness of the situation concerning conservation in Zimbabwe, especially that of the black rhino and to show volunteers the real tangible impact of what they can achieve by volunteering at Imire, or even what they contribute by coming to Zimbabwe as tourists.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

I worked in marketing for 12 years in the UK before deciding to take a career break in 2010 and going travelling. Whilst away, I volunteered on two wildlife conservation programmes in South Africa and did a FGASA Level 1 Field Guiding course - which sparked my interest in conservation and tourism marketing in general.

I then travelled through Mozambique and Zimbabwe and ended up helping at the lodge on Imire for 18 months, which is where this volunteer programme is based. It was all an adventure to get to this point and I am determined to get as many people as possible to experience Zimbabwe and Imire for themselves!

What makes Imire unique?

We believe Imire is unique firstly because of how it was founded - on solid conservation grounds and sustainable farming principles. We’ve acheived many firsts at Imire - habituating orphaned African elephants, becoming a breeding nucleus for foot-and-mouth free buffalo as well as nyala and the rare sable antelope. We have a proven and successful track record of breeding black rhino for release back into safe areas of Zimbabwe and our vision is to continue to promote the benefits of wildlife and human co-habitation in the rural areas.

Our volunteer programme is hands on, and we mean properly hands on - where else can you study the endangered black rhino so close at hand, have such amazing experiences with elephants and form relationships with many other animals? Because we only take a maximum of 10 people at a time, our volunteers are always active, always involved and become one of the family - Imire is still family owned, with three generations of the Travers family living on the game park and we believe this creates a special atmosphere which is hard to find in larger, more commercial programmes.

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

Patience, enthusiasm and flexibility are all key to a good volunteer, especially in Africa! Our volunteers will turn their hands to anything - whether its mucking out the rhino beds, helping vets with injections, carrying out snare sweeps or searching for white rhino’s on horseback - be prepared for anything!

How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?

Every project we undertake has specific and measurable objectives which are regularly measured by a range of Imire staff, managers, community members and volunteers. All volunteers give us feedback in the middle and end of their programmes and if necessary we will adapt the direction of projects and volunteer involvement.

Each community project is undertaken with the full support of the village heads, local council, schools and other relevant parties and we go through a full consultation to ensure that all parties buy into what we are trying to achieve. Our community projects are about empowerment not charity and we find that within the community there are enthusiastic people who will do their best to make each project a success.