March 2016 Project Update - Anti-Poaching and Wildlife Management

22 March 2016

Volunteers having a massive impact in Zimbabwe

Our partner programme in Kariba, run by the fantastic Kariba Conservation Programme, have had a very busy and productive first three months of 2016. The team at the KCP are working closely with local rangers to curb poaching both on land, in the Gache Gache wilderness area, and on Lake Kariba itself, the world’s largest man-made lake. In addition to running anti-poaching operations, the KCP is addressing education issues in the area through their work in the Gache Gache community which includes ongoing repairs to school buildings, renovating water systems in the school and clinic and bringing conservation education to local school children.

Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management 

KCP volunteers have collected almost 50 snares in the Gache Gache wilderness area since November 2015 and have carried out more than 50 overnight patrols. The locations of snares are logged using GPS and help with the maintenance of a poaching heat map, which enables the KCP to plan future operations with local authorities.

There has been a lot of elephant and buffalo activity in the area which has necessitated an increase in the number of snare patrols and recces by volunteers and the permanent KCP team. The volunteers have set up trail cameras and have been visually counting and logging individual herds (elephants) and bulls (buffalo). The elephants are being identified individually, with a photographic database including age, sex and condition being created. This will enable better monitoring of individual animals and a better understanding of territory and movements.

Sitting and observing wild elephants is an exhilarating experience and, as well as being a pleasure, is an important conservation activity. 

In addition to learning the art of tracking spoor and looking for signs of animals, volunteers also collate the information gathered to show the number of species in an area, the number of young, location of water sources and other important wildlife triggers. Tracking is as vital as finding as it provides an insight into the state and health of an animal without the need for visual. Happily, there have been plenty of opportunities to see large herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as increasing numbers of plains game.

 

On the lake, volunteers have been able to provide the funds for boat fuel, which has enabled more regular lake patrols to remove illegal nets. The lack of rain in the region has meant the lake has dropped to unprecedented levels, exposing nets stuck to protruding trees. Volunteers have been removing these nets before they begin to decimate the local bird population. Crocodiles and hippos also get stuck in these nets if not removed.

The removal of snares and nets and the increased presence from more patrols and more visitors to the area, means that the poachers will move away. Long term this will increase the movement of game through the area and encourage animals to return to breed. 

Conservation Management

Volunteers have also been working in the Gache Gache wilderness area repairing roads and fixing gully erosion. Without a good road network, it is hard for rangers to be quickly deployed to poaching hotspots, so volunteers get very involved in building new roads and maintaining the current network. Elephants are the main culprits for creating road blocks which need to be moved - some days, the work is not as glamorous as others..  

The process of restoring a wilderness area to its previous abundance is a long one, and anti-poaching is vital to its success. Hand-in hand with on the ground operations is community engagement and education. Giving people the tools to make a living means the reliance on subsistence poaching (killing smaller animals for food) is reduced. Educating communities on the value of the animals around them reduces the temptation to get involved in large animal poaching (e.g. elephant).

The Kariba Conservation Programme and its volunteers are also involved in community projects to back up the operational work done on the ground.


Community Projects

The first project completed was for volunteers to put a new roof onto a block of toilets at the local Gache Gache primary school which were unused as the previous roof had disintegrated. The new ablutions can now be used, placing far less stress on the previous ones, which were becoming a serious health risk. The next project is to renovate the water system at both the primary and secondary schools, which means clean drinking water will be freely available to the students.

Calling arty and creative volunteers! We would like to paint a world mural on the wall of the school and renovate the map of Africa, so the students can see where they fit in and where volunteers are coming from. We want them to understand there is a huge conservation community supporting them!

The project has also set up a conservation club at the senior school, with the primary school following after the Easter break. 

The community project agenda this year:
- February - new toilets: COMPLETE
- April - conservation club beginning
- May - beekeeping training
- June - renovation of school water system

Once the schools water system is renewed and funding is raised, volunteers will begin work on supplying water to the local clinic and helping with the building of a new maternity ward. 

Every single volunteer who joins this project will have a massive impact to both the wildlife and the communities in the Kariba and Gache Gache areas of Zimbabwe. Help to restore wildlife areas and have an impact on the poaching crisis.

Read testimonials from previous volunteers, or visit the project web page to find out more!

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