In just three months of this project rangers have patrolled over 10,000 kilometers around Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks. They have arrested 296 people that have been involved in environmental crimes in these areas and more than 50% of the rangers on the ground have been trained on diseases of wildlife and wildlife crime scene identification. While COVID-19 has changed the lives of all of us around the globe, in many cases people believe it has been a time to be able to reconnect with nature and for wildlife to be able to regenerate. Unfortunately, in many protected areas that rely on tourism as the main source of financial support economically, these iconic sites and species have had an increase in threats from poaching during this pandemic. In Victoria Falls, in just three months this project supported the removal of more than 795 wire snares from the surrounding bush.
For the residents and rangers in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe when the borders and airports closed so did the income to pay wages, provide fuel, and support anti-poaching in this renowned world heritage site. Fortunately, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust was able to secure support of the IUCN Save Our Species, co-funded by the European Union to help protect the biodiversity of the Victoria Falls National Park, Zambezi National Park and surrounding area.
In the first three months of this project, significant inroads have been made, including:
Of major importance during this short time has been the sustained livelihoods through the provision of food rations to enable the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management team to be able to be effective in their role as the wildlife authority and protect the wildlife. Additionally, the livelihoods of the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit scouts have also been supported to ensure they can also assist in wildlife protection. The Victoria Falls Community which depends on tourism can rest assured that the wildlife that makes their community unique will remain intact during this time.
Shortly after this project was initiated, there was a spike in the deaths of elephant in the area. This was of grave concern as earlier in the year more than 300 elephant has died in Botswana. Very quickly it was discovered that a new disease in African elephant was the culprit of the deaths in Zimbabwe. This project assisted the wildlife authority in being able to respond rapidly to every reported carcass and investigate the death and put measures in place to try and prevent the spread of the disease. At this time there are no new known cases of the disease and the outbreak has been effectively contained with resources from this project.
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.