Zambezi Society speech for World Wildlife Day
The Zambezi Society was invited to give a speech on behalf of support stakeholders as a curtain-raiser to the address by Zimbabwe’s Minister of the Environment, at the World Wildlife Day celebrations in Harare on Saturday 3rd March 2018. Zambezi Society Operations Manager, Gary Layard, (pictured), addressed dignitaries and a large crowd at the event.
Here is the text of his speech:-
“The Honourable Minister Oppah Muchinguri - Kashiri, the permanent Secretary Ambassador Grace Mutandiro, the Director General of Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Mr Fulton Mangwanya, Deputy Directors Matipano and Manyumwa, other Directors and senior staff of National Parks, Ladies and Gentleman. My name is Gary Layard. I represent The Zambezi Society and The Zambezi Elephant Fund as Operations Co-ordinator.
My sincere thanks to ZimParks for not only inviting us to speak today at World Wildlife Day, but also allowing us to partner them in supporting the vitally important work that they do in managing and protecting our natural wildlife resources.
Zimbabwe has the second largest population of African elephants, a significantly large wild population of lion and leopard, and one of the largest contiguous wilderness areas under State protection in the world - this being the Zambezi Valley. This places us on the global map as an extremely important country in this regard. In our new Zimbabwean era, the potential to grow our tourism sector is huge because of this wildlife and wilderness heritage. The well-being of the Parks and Wildlife Authority and Parks Estates as a whole, now and into the future, is therefore paramount.
Very briefly to outline the projects that I am directly involved with through The Zambezi Society:
- We run an anti-poaching Landcruiser based in Mana Pools. This vehicle does approximately 3000km/month deploying and uplifting anti-poaching ranger call signs. With donor funding we have recently managed to procure a second Landcruiser which will now double our capacity on the ground
- We carry out ranger firearms training courses - in the last 18 months we have trained 60 rangers, based in the Zambezi Valley, in firearms safety and proficiency. During this time there have been at least 6 successful contacts involving Rangers we have trained and armed elephant poachers in the Zambezi Valley. Partly as a result of these successes, the number of known poached elephants in the Zambezi Valley has decreased in the last 4 years to about 25% of previous numbers.
- We supply donor food for anti poaching patrols in Matusadona, Marongora and Mana Pools
- And again, through donor funding, we have now ordered a state of the art, anti-poaching reaction boat, which will be based on the Zambezi River at Mana Pools - delivery should be in about 8 weeks from now.
At this point is important to mention the collaboration and relationships that The Zambezi Society has with other non-profit, volunteer organisations that also carry out important support work. The Zambezi Elephant Fund, started by John and Nicci Stevens, is a donor fund-raising entity that we are closely partnered with. Without donor funding we would not be able to continue to run and grow the projects we are currently involved with.
The Zambezi Elephant Fund supports not only The Zambezi Society but a number of our implementing partners. Examples of these include MAPP (the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project) which has had some outstanding anti-poaching results in the Matusadona National Park and surrounds, not only on the ground and but also with intelligence gathering. Flying for Wildlife - is an organisation of volunteer pilots and aircraft providing aerial support for anti-poaching. Bushlife Support Unit is involved with the deployment of rangers, support of wet season anti-poaching reaction camps, as well as intelligence gathering. The Tikki Hywood Trust has been extremely effective in reinforcing anti-poaching legislation as well as prosecutions in all aspects of illegal wildlife trafficking. The Tashinga Initiative was responsible for the implementation and building of the new Zavaru anti-poaching reaction base in Mana Pools, amongst numerous other ranger welfare projects carried out. The Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust does excellent work in helping to resolve human/ animal conflict in and around the Kariba area.
It is important to note that these organisations are largely run by dedicated volunteer Zimbabweans, who are not paid for their work. No one more so than the Zambezi Society Strategic Director, Richard Maasdorp, who has done an absolutely outstanding job in coordinating and maintaining the collaboration of all these various entities under the funding umbrella of the Zambezi Elephant Fund. There are also a number of Tour Operators in the Zambezi Valley who have also contributed enormously in support of National Parks.
Finally I would like to touch on a subject that is close to my heart. Having spent a significant amount of time in the Zambezi Valley, and other parts of the Parks Estate in recent years, I am always humbled and enthused by the men and women on the ground, these being our National Parks Rangers and their senior officers. These brave people are often overlooked - they risk their lives daily, often in unbelievably difficult circumstances, to carry out their work. Yet this work is done, by and large, with enthusiastic, dedicated professionalism.
I would ask you on World Wildlife Day today, to pay tribute and remember our rangers, as they continue to protect and maintain our Zimbabwean wilderness heritage for us, our children and our children's children.
Thank you most sincerely for listening."