Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is centered in one of the largest elephant populations remaining in Africa. Tourists from all over the world travel to visit the waterfall and enjoy a safari in the surrounding wildlife areas. When COVID-19 hit the community of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, one of the biggest concerns was the complete loss of tourism, and with it the jobs and income that make up a community that supports 40,000 livelihoods. Some of these included the 91 staff with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and another 19 with the local anti-poaching unit. Unfortunately, with borders and airports closed, tourism has shut down. This led to an immediate increase in poaching of elephant as well as other flora and fauna in the area. Without tourism the local support to be able to finance the anti-poaching efforts collapsed, and there were no bailouts to help the rangers on the front line protect the natural resources that tourism depends upon.
Through the support of the IUCN Save Our Species, co-funded by the European Union, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) are able to sustain ranger livelihoods and build capacity of rangers on the front lines in anti-poaching efforts during this challenging time of COVID-19. This project will assist the local wildlife authority and anti-poaching rangers with equipment to be able to improve their anti-poaching patrols, response and management through SMART Cybertracker software (specific software designed for wildlife management) and training by project collaborator Tactical Advantage Solutions. The project will include training on for first responding rangers to be able to identify the difference in common diseases affecting wildlife, malicious poisonings, and how to secure and safely manage a wildlife crime scene.
In an effort to help the community of Victoria Falls, and conserve the biodiversity of the area, ranger livelihoods will be maintained through food rations to ensure that rangers are able to be effective in their roles and while on patrol. There will be food provisions to help the teams in the field so that they are able to be deployed, collected, and respond as needed and ensure they conserve the wildlife that helps make Victoria Falls Community an iconic tourism destination. Management of the National Park and firebreaks will also be supported in this project. We aim to be able to use this improved capacity and resources to protect these areas and be effective at responding to identified areas of concern.
There are a number of other organizations working to support local feeding programs of the disadvantaged during this difficult time. This project complements another VFWT project which works with the local rural community on sustainable agriculture practices and human wildlife conflict alleviation. Through this multi-faceted approach this project aims to support the livelihoods of communities and rangers, and build the capacity of rangers, investigators and teams on the ground, to protect elephant and wildlife populations during this global emergency.
This project has helped the partners achieve the following successes to date: (August 15th– October 15th)
- 459 snare removed from the bush
- 269 arrests made
- 6653 km on patrol covered
- 6 mammals immobilized and saved from wire snares
Disclaimer: This project is funded by the IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IUCN or the European Union.