This issue of the Bushlife Conservancy newsletter was authored by Lauren Dangelmayr, a long-time supporter and member of our recently formed fundraising team. Lauren was Nick’s first guest at camp this season and she shares the following report from the field.
Welcome from beautiful and already quite dry Mana Pools! The 2019 year started with a mild rainy season. The Bushlife Support Unit Trust (BSU) vehicles went out on a rotation cycle, keeping several vehicles out at a time, and bringing them back weekly for part repair and refueling. BSU currently has four vehicles, including a new addition to the fleet, as cited in our February newsletter. Thanks to each of you who donated toward this purchase last year, we succeeded in our $25,000.00 matching funds campaign generously provided by Bushlife Conservancy friends, The Lawler Family Trust (read our interview with the Lawlers below). This purchase enabled us to keep vehicles out on patrol, with another at base used for spare parts. While it’s harder for the rangers to patrol during the rainy season, there wasn't as much rain as Mana Pools has seen in recent years. This year's rainy season laid the groundwork for an intense dry season to come. In fact, with so little rain, development experts say this could be Zimbabwe's worst drought in 30 years. (As a point of reference, in 1992, Zimbabwe was hit by a drought that killed more than one million cattle and left more than five million people in need of food aid.) These conditions will have an impact on the animals and the delicate balance in Mana Pools. In fact, we anticipate an increase in poaching and increased stress on the animals leading to starvation in some cases.
WELCOME OUR BUSHLIFE CONSERVANCY MANAGER
Nkululeko, or "Freedom", recently joined the Bushlife Conservancy (BC) family, providing on the ground support to Nick and the BSU team. His motto is "Conservation Through Action". Freedom grew up in a rural area of Matabeleland North Province. His family farmed and he continued that passion for the land by joining National Park Services at an early age. Prior to joining Bushlife, he was a Ranger for 12 years in Operations & Scientific Services. In 2011, he began work in Rifa, providing education courses for school children. Over eight years, he educated 120 children per month, eight months a year, teaching them about biology and wildlife in the bush. During his time off, he travels to visit his daughter who lives with family and attends school. He's also been selected as one of only two conservation leaders in all of Southern Africa to travel to Washington D.C. later this year to participate in a program with the U.S. government to combat wildlife trafficking (IVLP).
Freedom joined the team mid rainy season and hit the ground running, or at least working through the mud! He works hand-in-hand with the BSU patrols, managing the rangers and working with them on support and tactics. In addition to working with the BSU team and coordinating with National Park Rangers, he is also taking an anti-poaching strategic planning position to proactively respond to what is taking place. Generally, Freedom observed, we see two types of poaching. One uses guns and is targeting elephants for their ivory. This approach uses the local communities as informants. The second form is conducted by local community members using wire snares, dogs and/or spears and is driven by sustainability demands, specifically targeting animals for food. Because of the severe dryness, he expects to see both types of poaching increase due to the economic stress and lack of food caused by of the drought
COMMUNITY-BASED PROGRAMS IN OUR FUTURE
In an effort to fight both these forms of poaching, Freedom wants to implement programs that would strengthen local engagement, generate income and reduce unemployment. Introducing a system of social events would encourage members of the local community to engage with the rangers and help increase a sense of pride and protecting heritage when thinking of the National Parks. Specific ideas include exchange programs for the local children, football/netball tournaments, and community wildlife programs. Potential programs to help mitigate the financial impact of the drought include chicken keeping, vegetable growing, and fish farming. Continued community outreach and education/increased awareness are critical to the long-term viability of the Park.
Additionally, Freedom has been working with the National Parks' rangers, who have been working very hard to support Mana Pools. As many of their families live close by, they are requesting a truck that could be used to go to town for supplies.