ON PATROL IN THE ZAMBEZI VALLEY - REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
As a severe drought threatens the Zambezi Valley areas during the dry season of 2019, the Zambezi Society is focusing its attention more than ever on providing material and moral assistance to Park rangers to help them protect vulnerable wildlife resources.
Following the tragic loss of our dedicated, long-term anti-poaching deployment driver, Mr Funny Gapa, (as reported in June 2019) Zambezi Society personnel are stepping in to assist so that ranger deployment with the use of our 4x4 vehicles stationed in the Zambezi Valley continues.
In early July 2019, Pete Musto spent five nights out with ZimParks rangers in the community areas east of Lake Kariba assisting with a Zambezi Society vehicle to herd small groups of elephant back into the protected areas. With seasonal water sources drying out because of the impending drought situation, these herds are tempted to stray inland into settled farmlands in search of water and food In doing so, they are at risk of being shot as pests. Pete was able to witness the various different strategies being adopted by villagers to keep elephants away from their crops, with varying degrees of success.
Meanwhile, on a later patrol deployment in the Hurungwe/RIFA area in early August 2019, Richard Maasdorp visited community areas to pick up Park rangers who had spent three nights defending villagers crops. A banana plantation had been destroyed by elephant. A grass fence protecting a vegetable garden had been opened up and invaded by over 30 eland (see image above). As the patrol left at last light, the eland herd was seen emerging from the Park in search of more food.
It was invaluable to the Zambezi Society representatives to have time to listen to the villagers about the realities they face on the ground. These experiences reinforce the fact that it is time for high level stakeholder engagement with the community leaders in the “transitional” settled lands that abut onto National Park areas in the Zambezi Valley if we are to develop effective strategies and solutions that will benefit both wildlife and people in these areas.
Richard Maasdorp also deployed ZimParks rangers in the Charara area east of Lake Kariba in advance of The Zambezi Society’s introduction of a manager for our new Charara project to assist ZimParks to protect this vulnerable area. As the image above shows, lake levels are extremely low (the water would normally be lapping the tyres of the vehicle). Seasonal inland water sources which are normally available to wildlife during the dry months are almost all dried up this year. This means that animals will either stray into community areas (as described above) or flock to the lakeshore grasslands causing vegetation depletion. In either case, they increase their chances of being illegally hunted. Below is an example of the snaring wires retrieved from the field by rangers during this one patrol. These are used by poachers to trap animals such as hippo, kudu, impala or warthog. in an agonising slow death.
Further downstream, in the Rifa area, where the Zambezi River flows out of Lake Kariba and into the Middle Zambezi Valley, separating Zimbabwe from Zambia, wildlife are equally vulnerable. At “hotspots” such as the one pictured below, ZimParks rangers need to keep constant watch to prevent poaching gangs from using.the river’s narrow crossing points to gain access to the Zambezi Valley wildlife. The Zambezi Society is assisting with ranger patrol deployments into these vulnerable areas.
Meanwhile, In Mana Pools National Park, which receives considerable assistance from the tourism industry (unlike the areas described above), the Zambezi Society attended a tourism stakeholders meeting held in the new Ranger Recreation Centre which was constructed with assistance from The Zambezi Elephant Fund and tourism partners.
Here, although the focus on keeping ranger patrols going is still vitally important, and tourism industry players are assisting, there are other issues of concern. Topics discussed included the impacts of tourism on wildlife behaviour and habitat, lack of adherance to the Code of Conduct for Visitors and the potential effects of the impending drought. in the area.
Nowhere are the wild animals of Mana Pools more vulnerable during a drought than at the rapidly diminishing inland water sources like Chitake Spring in the southern section of Mana Pools .
To assess potential effects and possible mitigation measures, The Zambezi Society’s Richard Maasdorp undertook a visit to this area with the Senior Wildlife Officer of Mana Pools.
The issue of human interference (or not) in a National Park during a drought situation is a difficult and delicate subject. In the current circumstances, The Zambezi Society will focus on providing increased resources to bolster ranger coverage of the Zambezi Valley’s protected areas and to tighten up legal procedures to ensure that perpetrators of illegal wildlife crime are efficiently and appropriately punished.
On a parting note, it was a delight to The Zambezi Society to pay a recent visit to the Karl Pisec School for ZimParks rangers children at Marongora Station at the entrance to the Zambezi Valley.
Thanks to generous donations of school desks, materials and equipment from friends of the Zambezi Society over the past few years, these children of the hard working rangers who protect the Zambezi’s National Parks and other areas at least have a reasonable educational start in life.
PLEASE HELP US TO KEEP OUR PATROL DEPLOYMENTS GOING
The Zambezi Society’s assistance with moving ranger patrols around the Zambezi Valley is essential in order to protect these wonderful wilderness areas and the wildlife that inhabits them. The reality on the ground is that the Valley is vast. The majority of its wildest places do not have the ability to attract tourism. So who will pay to help conserve these places?
Support from donors like you is essential to keep these areas protected.
If you would like to contribute towards the huge annual cost of keeping our deployments and patrols in the field going, please click the box below:-