SUPPORT from the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) towards the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), has already improved operational outcomes as evidenced by the reduction in poaching activities in the Mid Zambezi valley.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Mid Zambezi Valley
Since 2018, AWF invested over USD10 million in the Mid Zambezi Valley through infrastructural developments, provision, and digitalization of radio communication equipment, providing fuel, field and camping equipment, patrol rations, vehicles and boats for anti–poaching patrols and facilitating specialized training and capacity building programs for rangers as part of efforts to combat poaching, reduce illegal wildlife trade and trafficking of wildlife products in the landscape.
The AWF has financed the purchase of anti-poaching, surveillance and patrol trucks and boats in the Mid Zambezi valley. They have also refurbished and constructed a vehicle workshop at Marongora, built modern housing units for rangers and administrative staff and offices at the Zambezi River Specialized Anti-Poaching Unit (ZARSAU) D Camp. The facilities at the D Camp comprise of the Officer-In-Charge house, one office block, one entertainment centre, and four Ranger houses.
Speaking during media tour of the partnership projects between Zimparks and AWF, Mr Felix Chimeramombe , the Zimparks Regional Manager for Mid Zambezi Region said they are already enjoying benefits from their partnership with the AWF.
One of the great works that we have achieved through this partnership is the resuscitation of the old satellite workshop that used to exist here. We now have this new state of the art workshop that has been constructed through the assistance from the AWF whereby from being satellite workshop, it has become our central workshop for the Mid Zambezi region which services all vehicles from the 11 stations that we have,” said Mr Chimeramombe.
Before refurbishment of the Marongora workshop, Zimparks would take vehicles for service and maintenance to Harare or other private players in the Mid Zambezi valley area, resulting a ballooned annual vehicle maintenance bill.
“Believe you me, as the Zimparks, we are now saving quite a substantial amount of money from the course of repairs and maintenance of our vehicles. In the past we used to take our vehicles to other private garages from repairs and services but right now we are having to do everything here through support we are getting from AWF. Let me also take this opportunity to inform you that we are in the process of building five staff accommodation here at Marongora.”
The accommodation facilities are the ZARSAU D Camp was constructed mainly to facilitate smooth patrol of the Zambezi river to deal with incidences of poaching. Currently, AWF is facilitating the installation of digital radio equipment systems in Chewore North and South under the CITES MIKE grant to improve communication across the landscape and to strengthen law enforcement operations systems.
Zimparks radio technicians underwent a refresher training on use and maintenance of the new radio system. This will ensure seamless integration into the Zambezi valley radio communication system and to build the technicians’ capacity to carryout troubleshooting and minor repairs in case of breakdowns. The training was conducted by Teltech Thompson Technology technicians who were awarded the contract to install the Chewore digital radio system in the landscape.
According to Zimparks, these amongst other numerous developments have greatly boosted staff morale, leading to a reduction in poaching activities as rangers and the entire team is now fully equipped to respond promptly to any threats.
Mr Edmore Ngosi, the Senior Area Manager for Mana Pools National Park says there has been a reduction in poaching activities over the years owing to the support they have been getting from the AWF.
“The other major challenge that is here is the commercial poaching of elephants. I am however pleased to say we are currently on top of the situation. For 2019, where we lost some few elephants, I can say up to now we have not lost any. In 2019, we lost three elephants but up to now none has been lost to poaching and this is because of the support that we are getting from our conservation partners like AWF like and other players involved,” said Mr Nkosi.
AWF is currently implementing projects funded by the European Union under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (CITES MIKE), the Dorothy N Batten Foundation and other grants to reduce poaching and trafficking which are major causes of key wildlife species decline.
Meanwhile, Olivia Mufute, the AWF Zimbabwe Country Director said their goal as the AWF was to see Zimbabwe achieve its long term conservation goals.
““The African Wildlife Foundation has developed a ten–year Country Conservation Strategy for Zimbabwe (2020 to 2030) in line with the Government of Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy (NDS1). The AWF Zimbabwe Country Strategy spells out a guiding framework for AWF Zimbabwe’s work towards promoting sustainable development underpinned by sound management and utilization of wildlife and wildland resources.
“Our approach to wildlife and wildlands conservation is people–centric, and therefore recognizes conservation not as an end in itself, but a medium for attaining sustainable livelihoods and improved standards of living for current and future generations. This signifies AWF’s long–term commitment to support biodiversity conservation. We are here to ensure that we implement projects that have significant impacts at the local, regional and global level,” said Mufute.
She added that they have ensured that the core infrastructure that is needed to complemented Zimpakrs and government’s conservation work is availed. She also said they are working hand in glove with the Zimparks on ensuring they adopt on ling sustainability model that will carry them into the future even in the absence of finding from partners.