Gonarezhou Game Park To Receive US$15m From New Wildlife Fund

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ONE of Zimbabwe’s biggest wildlife reserves is to receive US$1 million annually from a brand-new fund to help sustain its operations and fight poaching, German conservationists said.

The money, which will extend for at least 15 years, will help pay for ranger patrols, equipment maintenance and other everyday needs, the park’s partner, the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), told AFP by email.

Zimbabwe’s second largest reserve, the Gonarezhou National Park covers 5,000 square kilometres (2,000 square miles) in the country’s remote southeast.

It is home to at least 11,000 elephants — its name means “the place of the elephant” in the local ChiShona language — as well as to black rhinos, whose numbers are kept secret for security reasons.

The money will come from the Legacy Landscapes Fund (LLF), a brand-new international initiative that provides funds to help wildlife havens in poor countries.

“The idea of the Legacy Landscapes Fund is to provide a reliable funding for basic operations in a protected area,” said the FZS’s head of communications, Dagmar Andres-Bruemmer.

The donation to Gonarezhou is “funding ‘to keep the lights on’ in difficult times, so to say,” she said in response to questions emailed by AFP.

National parks that depend on tourism income have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, she noted.

“In some parks in Africa, even basic work such as ranger patrols could not be done due to budget cuts. So poaching picked up significantly.”

The LLF, set up in 2021, is a public-private fund established as a charity under German law to help close the funding gap for biodiversity conservation.

Participants include the French and German governments, Germany’s KfW Development Bank, France’s Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

“Protected and wild areas remain the mainstay of biodiversity conservation and our best tool at mitigating climate change across the globe,” said Hugo Van der Westhuizen, director of Gonarezhou Conservation Trust.

“Managing these areas effectively requires long-term commitment in funding.”