By Lulu Brenda Harris for CITE
Zimbabwean youths are participating in a voluntary 14-day anti-poaching program in the northwestern Hwange region, playing their part in tackling the scourge of poaching of animals in the area.
Created in 2020, the anti-poaching patrol program has so far accepted 14 entries, training volunteers to sail in the wild, with both animals and hunters tracking down.
The patrol program is the brainchild of Wisdom Bushe Neshav, a local tour operator and safari business owner in Lobangwe, Matesti District.
The goal is to expose communities, especially young people, to the importance of nurturing wildlife, Nashafi said.
“We should stop seeing animals as a source of cheap meat but learn to appreciate them,” he said in an interview with CITE.
“That’s why I run the Okatoie 14 Days Program, a volunteer anti-poaching patrol program, to try to reduce the poaching that occurs throughout the farmlands we manage.”
Most of the volunteers are young people, whom Nashafi describes as “the future leaders of tomorrow.”
“We made 14 entries and the participants are nature lovers and bondus (bushers) who value conservation,” he said.
“Some of the volunteers are aspiring tour guides or professional fishermen who already have licenses but lack practical experience.”
With 18 years of experience running his safari business, Nashafi said they have also used the software to share valuable information about the wilderness.
“We teach participants how to identify and track animals. We share information about the different types of trees, how to do navigation using natural means and technology. We show participants how to do bush camping with or without tents, and how to find water and food in the field when lost and hungry.” And most importantly, we teach them how to track down spoilers for poachers.”
“This program has been very useful and very well accepted by the participants.”
With nearly 50,000 hectares of farmland between the A1 and A2 resettlement farms, Neshavi, who is also a 52nd farm manager, said his hunting safari business was surrounded by vast land that had been exploited by fishermen.
He noted that unlike poachers who kill animals indiscriminately, his safari business values wildlife, with some of the hunting revenue going to the community.
“Give us a kudu, we sell it to a fishing customer who will pay $800 (£630) to $1,000 (£790) while the fisherman will sell meat for $20 (£15). What is the value of $1,000 in the community pocket and 20 “If you weigh the two, you will see that poaching does us no good but actually does us harm,” said Nachavi.
“So through this anti-poaching program we are saying, ‘Let’s stop poaching, but embrace wildlife. “These are natural resources and we need to nurture them so that future generations can benefit from them. There is nothing more painful than being asked to contribute so much to the repair of a school damaged by floods or winds than simply withdrawing money from a wildlife account for your renovations.”
Poachers have taken advantage of the Covid-19-induced lockdown to kill more animals, as the tourism sector including farmers and villagers have stopped taking mitigating measures to protect wildlife, Neshavi claimed.
So far, volunteers have removed more than a thousand wire trap since they started at the end of July 2020.
One of the program assistants, Bongani ‘Bongo’ Nyoni, admitted to being a former hunter who was “ignorant of sustainability but overtime understands the importance of nurturing wildlife.”
Nioni, who boasted that he is a very fast runner, helps plan the physical part of the program, noting that volunteers move everywhere and spend most of their time walking.
Normally we try to explore the entire 50,000 hectares and aim to do so in 14 days. Walking is not easy but we try our best. “We have red zones or areas that we’ve identified as hotspots, so we try to cover those areas as much as possible,” he said.
Despite the high demands of the program, Nashafi said the volunteers funded themselves themselves.
“Everyone contributes to the meals and the logistics, but at the end of the day, not enough money so we end up in our own pockets for supplementation. It’s also not easy but for the love of wildlife, it has to be done.”
This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism Programme, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to expand conservation and environmental journalism in Africa, and bring more African voices to the international debate on conservation. Read the original story here: