THE partnership between the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) together and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has breathed life into Hwange National Park, with animals that have been at the mercy of climate crisis, poachers and diseases now being rescued and treated.
IFAW is a global non-profit organisation involved in helping animals and people thrive together and visible in over 40 countries around the world where they are involved in the rescuing and rehabilitation of /animals.
Under the 2019 agreement, ZimParks and IFAW partnered in a deal that has seen over US$2 million poured in to fund, among other projects, a laboratory within the national park and the construction of conservancy infrastructure in the form of houses for game rangers.
The partnership has also seen the tackling of the long-standing supply crisis in Hwange, Zimbabwe’s biggest wildlife sanctuary, equipping of a workshop at Main Camp with the tools required to maintain the vehicles, among other programmes.
The Veterinary Field Laboratory situated at Mtshibi Camp inside Hwange has received new equipment and drug supplies in a development that has seen animals being rescued and treated nearby unlike in the past where they would be transported to Victoria Falls and South Africa for testing.
“Before IFAW came we did not have anything yet. This was actually a storeroom where we kept our junk and everything. When I came here as a veterinary doctor that is when we engaged IFAW to support in terms of capturing of animals and treating them,” Kudzai Mupondi, the veterinary doctor housed at the Hwange National Park told journalists during a media tour last week.
“We can now test anything in terms of all wildlife diseases. We now have PCR, all the microscopes and everything which we need to survey, monitor and investigate all types of diseases.”
“Due to climate change, we are having all sorts of diseases which we have to investigate and control. Before we did not have anything but now I am happy that we are very much capable and we have the capacity to test everything and to respond to all the problems animals will be having, be it sick animals, problem animals that we have to capture and bring them here either for treatment or rehabilitation,” Mupondi said.
Mupondi said the laboratory was still a work in progress and there was a need to revamp and renovate the small room they were using.
“We also have a new vehicle from IFAW which is helping us to respond to all types of emergencies we may have, including rescue, outbreaks and other things.”
“Last year we had 18 animals of different species which we responded to rescue, treat.”
He said Parks personnel were having problems of people snaring animals for meat and said that was often.
“In a month we have two or three animals that we have to respond to and also those animals which are not being kept well somewhere, we have the responsibility to take them and rehabilitate them here.”
“Climate change affects the dynamics and the movement of animals so diseases not prevalent in other areas are then transported to other areas.”
“We then have to do active surveillance and monitoring so that whenever there is an outbreak, we detect and control.”
ZimParks’ Matabeleland North regional manager Sam Chibaya said through the partnership they have been assisted in feeding guard dogs that have been critical in combating poaching and criminal activities in the camp.
“We also deployed them in Chimanimani where a ranger was attacked and a rifle was taken and we are happy that rifle was found. We need also specialised vehicles to ensure the dogs are available anytime they are needed,” he said.
“We are working with partners, particularly IFAW who are supporting us in terms of the feed. It costs a lot to keep these dogs so we are getting support from IFAW.”
In 2019, ZimParks and IFAW entered into a five-year agreement committed to fund conservation efforts in the giant Hwange National Park for US$1 million per year.
So far, IFAW has poured US$2 million into projects at the park and the money has already been utilised in several programmes, including the rehabilitation of the 100km road from Main Camp to Makona Camp.
Tinashe Farawo, the ZimParks spokesperson, said: “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.”
“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.
He said the partnership has also enabled the authority to improve its response to human-wildlife conflict and poaching.