June 2020 Newsletter: ‘Bush Talk’

 In Newsletter

Greetings!

I can’t believe how much the world has changed since our last newsletter just 11 weeks ago. The COVID-19 crisis reached the wilds of Africa, millions across the globe are uniting for social justice, and economies are thankfully rebounding after a very volatile few months.

The Trust has continued to operate while refocusing resources and priorities. Due to government-issued mandatory lockdown, schools have closed and we’ve had to stop our Conservation Education program. Wildlife crime, poaching and trafficking, has increased as the economic realities of COVID-19 results in wide-spread famine and unemployment. Our now lean staff is wearing many hats to rise to the demand. Because of our devoted supporters, a united community and committed volunteers, we have so far kept up with wildlife rescue demands and some other important work . Read more about this exciting elephant rescue, which involved his mom and a protective auntie below, after our Volunteer Spotlight.

We have been doing quite a few wildlife rescues lately as isolation carries on and wide-spread famine sets in. This is video of Roger Parry, our Conservation Manager, removing a snare off an impala with the help of Victoria Falls Anti Poaching team.

We are happy to announce that our grant with the USAID VukaNow Activity has started. This grant is significant in that it will help our laboratory improve its skills and equipment with wildlife forensics. We received our real-time PCR machine which will assist the lab team in amplification of DNA for wildlife forensics and zoonotic diseases. The lab technicians were trained on using the machine for these tests and we look forward to immediately putting it to use with casework.

This equipment is important for our team to be able to enhance our testing of wildlife forensics samples and assisting in wildlife crime investigations to take results to court. It also will be a major tool in the diagnosis of wildlife diseases for management purposes.

We’ve also successfully kept up efforts to prevent human-wildlife conflict. Our Community Guardians have been able to respond to all reported conflicts and our mobile predator proof bomas are protecting livestock from predation by lions, hyaena and other predators.

We are also very pleased to announce that we received UK Aid Direct support to help our Rural Livelihoods Project in the two rural communities adjacent to Victoria Falls. Rural people living along the wildlife interface often bear the heaviest burdens of co-existing with wildlife and suffer the greatest economic losses. This project will work to prevent and mitigate human wildlife conflict while at the same time increasing cropping yields of maize and sorghum for people to be able to sustain their families. As human populations continue to expand, and put pressure on natural resources, we are striving to find ways to reduce poaching and poisoning of wildlife while ensuring those that live alongside it are able to feed their families on the same amount of land.

Never has this been more critical than in these current times. With the tourism industry in Victoria Falls at a standstill, and lockdowns in place to prevent COVID-19, many people are facing famine. This project helps rural agropastoralists finds sustainable methods of agriculture to ensure they are able to survive and help meet the United Nationals Global Goal of alleviating hunger, while protecting the natural resources and heritage of Zimbabwe.

Zambezi Cycle Challenge

The Ride will go on!

July 10-12 th , 2020

After careful consideration, and barring any legal impediments, we have decided to forge forward with the 2020 Zambezi Cycle Challenge Event – the must do bucket list event of southern Africa. All proceeds will support conservation including Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust.

Currently, as part of COVID mitigation, there is a limit of 50 riders for any event. We are hoping that by the time of the ride in July, this limit will be lifted but if not, we will have to limit the field to the first 50 riders that entered. This year’s ride will be limited to mostly local riders, and there health and safety procedures required for the ride will align with national standards.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

Please join me in thanking Sue Holloway, one of our lovely and wonderful volunteers who helps us with events, copy editing, proof reading, and fundraising. She is an absolute star and we immensely rely on her talent and friendship. Thank you Sue! Please contact us if you would like to volunteer.

Thank you!

None of this remarkable work would be possible without our donors who continue to support our work standing by us through thick and thin. Knowing that you care,

and are willing to help Zimbabwe’s wildlife and people given the challenges

that you’re almost certainly faced with will not soon be forgotten by us.

We stand in awe and thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We

hope you stay well and that any challenges you’re

facing are not insurmountable.

ELEPHANT RESCUE (from above)

Over the last few weeks we have attended to quite a number of snare removals on many different species from impala and waterbuck to baby elephant. All were successful.

One notable case was a year-old elephant calf that was seen with a tight snare around his ear and neck, the wire dragging on the ground. Every time he stepped on the wire the snare grew tighter and tighter. His herd would come down to the Zambezi River to drink each day so our community of tour operators, citizens and Trust personnel worked together to search for three days to try locate him so that we could remove the snare.

We found them on the afternoon of the third day and were able dart both the mother and the calf, which is necessary to protect the team on the ground and to ensure the calf reunites with its mother once it wakes up. After the mother and baby were darted, things got exciting when a very concerned, tuskless auntie challenged the team three times before cautiously moving away and leaving us to our work.

Not only was this a concern for the team’s safety, but aslo for the darted animals who need attention as soon as possible once sedated. So, we were thrilled she left on her own accord.

All the while this was happening, the calf was attended to. The wire was removed, its wounds cleaned and a long-lasting antibiotic administered to ensure his recovery. The mother’s health was continually monitored for respiration and blood pressure to make sure her vitals remained in good condition.

Both animals woke up within a minute of each other, you can see the youngster patiently waiting for mom to come around in the second from the last photograph here. They immediately meandered off to join the rest of their herd. We were overwhelmingly pleased with his outcome and thankfully, the prognosis for the youngster is a good one.