By Chief Correspondent
THE 2019 five-year agreement between International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) and Zimparks, committed to funding conservation efforts in the giant Hwange National Park for US$1 million per year, is bearing fruit as witnessed by the massive transformation going on in the reserve.
So far, Ifaw has poured US$2 million for projects at Hwange National Park, including the rehabilitation of the 100km road from Main Camp to Makona Camp.
The development implies that its is now easier for authorities to respond to cases of poaching and problem animals.
For animal health, the Nyamandlovu Pan – the largest watering hole in the park – was scooped of mud to ensure a reliable source of water at the popular game viewing platform.
As such, it is now teaming with aquatic life, with crocodiles and hippos which has deserted it returning home.
Water pumps within the over 14 000 square kilometre park have also been powered with solar after replacement of diesel-powered generators.
The park has 102 watering holes.
The Nyamandlovu Pan has also been refurbished as it is a popular platform where tourists can view wild animals coming for a drink and is also conveniently located close to the Main Camp.
Through the agreement, Zimparks has also been enabled to furnish its veterinary laboratory situated at Mtshibi Camp with the facility being equipped with a PCR machine.
Previously it was difficult to take samples from carcasses as they had to be taken to Victoria Falls and sometimes South Africa for testing.
Costs were also being incurred through hiring an external veterinarian whenever there was need but all this has been addressed through the partnership and they now have a resident veterinary doctor.
Zimparks communications manager, Tinashe Farawo, said the deal has brought efficiency in managing the massive wildlife reserve.
“We are very grateful to Ifaw for the funding they have provided to enable us to become more effective in our conservation efforts. We have since been able to construct houses for our rangers and reaction units at Makona Camp,” Farawo said.
“We have generally been struggling to effectively manage our conservation efforts because before the construction of these houses, our people had to travel from the main camp to Makona Camp but now they can live within their area of operation,” he said.
Farawo said the agreement has also enabled the authority to improve its response to human-wildlife conflicts and poaching.
“This is cost effective for us and also helps us to better manage conflicts between local communities and wild animals,” Farawo added.
He said after years of financial challenges, Zimparks’ partnership with Ifaw has ensured it is able to fulfil its mandate of securing the country’s wild animals, especially the growing elephant herd.
Zimparks’ Matabeleland North regional manager, Sam Chibaya said as a result of the initiative, the park has not lost a single elephant to poachers in the last two years.
“As far as we know, we have not had an elephant die because of poaching in the last two years although we have had mortalities, we believed to be due to natural causes,” Chibaya said.
This year, Zimparks is set to conduct animal census. The last one was carried out in 2014. The exercise is expected to begin in July at the peak of the dry season.