Ex-Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy board chairperson dies Garrett Patrick Killilea

Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent

WILDLIFE enthusiast and former Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy (MBRC) board chairperson, Garrett Patrick Killilea has died.

He was 74.

Killilea reportedly succumbed to cancer at a private hospital in Harare last Thursday and was buried on Sunday.

At the time of his death, Killilea had assumed the position of finance officer after relinquishing the role of chairperson due to ill health.

Current chair, Mr Ben Manyunyure said Killilea’s death is a tragic loss to the MBRC and the community at large.

“He had a strong passion for wildlife conservation and sustainable human development and will be greatly missed by the conservation fraternity, the MBRC family and the surrounding community,” he said.

Killilea’s death comes barely a month after the death of yet another committee member, Sairos Chaduka who succumbed to heart failure.

“It’s so sad that Killilea passed on just after the death of Mr Chaduka in August. We have lost important figures as a conservancy,” he said.

Born on February 28, 1948 in Northern Ireland, Killilea had a short stay in Zambia where he met his wife Diane before moving to Zimbabwe in 1977.

He became part of the MBRC and the Sebakwe Conservation Education in the late 1990s.

Killilea became the chairperson of the MBRC in 2008 and was deputised by Brigadier Sydney Singizi.

During his time at the helm of the organisation, the country had just embarked on the land reform programme with some resettled farmers poaching and killing wildlife. 

Killilea got involved in wildlife conservation especially in circle G, Mahamara and Dunlop Ranch thereby preserving the wildlife and environment.

Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy

Killilea was chairperson of MBRC until 2021 during which he played a critical role in terms of preserving wildlife, particularly the black rhino, which was on the brink of extinction.

MBRC is a custodian of a very important crush of black rhinos. The conservancy was formed in 1987 in order to save the black rhinos, which were being slaughtered by cross border poachers. 

The idea was to move them to a central location of the country to discourage the poachers. The area originally set up for this purpose was 63 000 hectares, which consisted of land belonging to 14 farms. 

The farm owners who gave up their land drew up a constitution in which they agreed to stop agricultural activities, pull down internal fences and stop further construction of buildings.

Through this constitution they managed to protect the black rhino, wildlife habitat and other wildlife species. Over a period of 20 years the key species, the black rhino produced 66 calves. 

To date, the area is home to various antelopes including the kudu, eland, impala, bush buck, waterbuck and large herbivores such as elephants, buffaloes, black rhino, hippopotamus and zebras. 

The carnivores recorded in the conservancy include a pack of wild dogs, leopards, cheetah, brown hyena, spotted hyena; caracal, serial and occasionally lions. 

Killilea is survived by wife Diane, four children and two grandchildren.

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