2020 Annual Report
Bushlife Conservancy (BC) is a US-registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established in 2016 to provide funding for the preservation and protection of African wildlife in their native environment, specifically Mana Pools National Park and the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe. Bushlife Support Unit Trust (BSU) is the Zimbabwean nonprofit that implements projects and activities funded by BC.
BSU has a strong history of collaboration with Zimbabwe’s Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks). They conduct anti-poaching patrols for the protection of all wildlife, including elephants, pangolins, and painted dogs; promote the conservation of habitat and natural resources; and deliver local community support and education. Projects funded and initiated by BC/BSU are at the request of Zimparks.
Geographical Area Covered
The geographical area we cover includes Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas World Heritage Site, encompassing 2613 sq. miles (6768 km²). These areas are under the authority of Zimparks. Mana Pools and Sapi are photographic safari areas, and Chewore is a legal hunting area with quotas set by Zimparks. There are no permanent human settlements in Mana Pools; however, the rangers’ families and sometimes extended families often follow them to the park and stay at the ranger station during their tour of duty. We also work with communities in the Nyakasanga Safari Area, a leased hunting concession, which contains the closest human settlements to Mana Pools. There are about 80,000 people in the area. The Government of Zimbabwe plans to decrease the size of this concession due to poor utilization. During 2020, our community projects in this area focused on human-wildlife conflict (HWC) involving leopards and lions. Mana Pools National Park and Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi Valley continue to be at extremely high risk for wildlife poaching and habitat encroachment activities. Zimparks does not have the funding to support the full complement of Park Rangers identified in their staffing plan so many positions are unfilled. Zimparks funding comes from tourism, and they receive no additional government support. Due to the impact of the pandemic, our donors were particularly critical to our success, as the tourism funding for Zimparks was very limited.
The flora and fauna of this diverse area includes key endangered wildlife species classified by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List: the African savanna elephant, Cape pangolin, and African wild dog.
There are only 3000 elephants remaining in Mana Pools and the Lower Zambezi Valley. The population of Cape pangolins has declined by 30 to 40 percent over the past 30 years. The number of wild (painted) dogs, detailed below, is based on reports from guides and camps in July 2020. The population remains low and continues to decrease, primarily due to threats from large predators and encroachment by humans.
- 35 dogs sighted in the southeastern section of Mana-Nyamawani. These dogs use Chewore; for many years, there has been a big pack in central Chewore.
- 16 sighted on the southern boundary road
- A pack of 6 or 7 reported by Kavinga camp
- 13 (Dandawa pack) were sighted near Kanga camp
- 9 adults and 7 pups in the Nyakasanga pack
- 3 adults in Llala pack plus new pups
Nick Murray is President of the BC Board of Directors and Chairman of the BSU Board of Trustees.
BSU works under memoranda of understanding with BC, and under permits from and memoranda of understanding with Zimparks. This includes current and pending permits for elephant collaring, which began in 2017, and large carnivore collaring of lions, leopards, and hyenas, which began in 2020.
Nick holds the following current licenses which allow for active facilitation of BSU projects: Dangerous Drugs License for darting and immobilizing wild animals; Close Protection Officer’s License, a South African-registered company; AOPS; Professional Canoe Guides License for the Lower Zambezi River, Zimbabwe (1997); and Professional Guides License from Zimbabwe (since 1991). Nick was the guide for the BBC film crew from 2015-2018 for the painted wolf episode of the Dynasties series.
Nkululeko "Freedom" Hlongwane is the operations manager for BSU, providing support to Nick and on-the-ground-direction for the rest of the team. Freedom is also a regular contributor to the BC newsletter, and he provides photos for our Facebook page and grant proposals.
Freedom grew up in a rural area of Matabeleland North Province. Prior to joining Bushlife, he was a Zimparks Ranger for 12 years in Operations & Scientific Services. In 2011, he began work with Rifa, providing education courses for school children. Over 8 years, he educated 120 children per month, 8 months a year, teaching them about biology and wildlife in the bush.
Freedom works with the BSU drivers, investigators, and with Zimpark rangers. His motto is "Conservation Through Action."
With your funding support, 2020 was a very productive and successful year.
- No elephants were poached in Mana Pools National Park in 2020.
- All collared elephants were protected from legal hunters.
- Three bulls, scheduled for new replacement equipment, were recollared.
- Five incursions by poachers were stopped from entering the park.
- One month of roadwork was completed, and existing roads were reopened.
- The remote bases of Mazunga and Kanga were upgraded with new tents, and the National Park ranger presence was maintained.
- One elephant was poached in the Nyakasanga area in 2020. Four land-based call signs reacted using our vehicle, and two boats were launched, one of which was ours. Unfortunately, the poachers made it back to Zambia, but we recovered the tusks.
- We hired four scouts to supplement the park ranger presence.
- There were illegal activities taking place in the southern boundary, including woodcutting, snaring, and buffalo hunting. This has already stopped due to our presence on the boundary.
- 73,705 km were covered by Bushlife vehicles on ranger deployment.
- As we cover a wider area in the valley and have more remote bases with vehicles strategically deployed, we have reduced the mileage on our vehicles, leading to less wear and tear and less maintenance.
- We carried out 37 days of river patrols. Six canoes were confiscated and several kilometers of nets were retrieved.
Kariba & Chinoyi Investigation Offices
We fund payment to informers who provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of poachers, and our funding provides fuel and maintenance for two vehicles deployed on investigative work. Below are some of the results of these investigations:
- Three arrests—1 pangolin recovered
- One arrest—1 pangolin skin recovered
- Three arrests—python recovered
Gold Panning Mitigation
The investigators continue to monitor the Angwa River and Secret Valley areas of Chewore and Doma safari areas. A total of 130 arrests have been made on six raids. Equipment was confiscated including hundreds of metal detectors, pans, and shovels.
Remote Bases in Operation
- Vundu is a base for the manager and his vehicle, a boat driver and a launching location for boat patrols, as well as a maintenance area for vehicles.
- Nyamepi is the base for Mana Pools area manager Edmore Ngosi, the four rangers covering Mazunga, and the other four covering Kanga bases. It is also a launch location for river patrols. The base also supplies food to the families in the village when the spouses are on patrol.
- Kanga houses four rangers, one vehicle driver, and provides fuel and food to them.
- Zavaru is the location for one vehicle and twenty rangers. Hopefully, by the end of January we will have two vehicles instead of one.
- Mazunga houses four rangers in two tents and one vehicle. Mobile tents are provided for patrol personnel. Food and fuel are also provided at this base.
- Chitangazuwa is a new base on the southern boundary. There are three tents housing three Bushlife scouts. Food, vehicles, fuel, drivers, water bowser, and water tanks are provided. Our goal is to encourage community involvement at this location. We will employ people to make bricks and build a permanent base. We are feeding the scouts by purchasing food from the community. To date, we have been successful in stopping a significant amount of illegal logging and meat poaching in the area.
- Marongora is a permanent ranger station located on top of the escarpment. One vehicle and driver are based here. The deployments to the Nyakasanga and Rifa areas of the Hurungwe safari area, as well as the Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) management, originate from this location. If funding permits, we would like to see a vehicle based here permanently in the future for HWC mitigation. We captured, collared, and translocated to another area a lioness and leopard in 2020. The leopard killed 70 goats, and the lion killed 12 cows. We plan to collar an elephant this rainy season to act as an early warning system to village farmers.
- We continued with our elephant-collaring program, now in its fourth year. We have collared a total of 11 iconic bulls and 3 cows for their protection. This will enable us to monitor their movement in the valley. In 2021, we would like to collar 5 elephants in the Chewore Safari Area. This will require us to use a helicopter, and it will be a 3- to 4-day exercise.
- 2020 saw the launch of the Zambezi Valley Carnivore Project with a goal of monitoring lions, hyenas, leopards, wild dogs, and cheetahs. We have collared 6 lions, 6 hyenas, and 2 leopards for this project. In partnership with Zimparks, we hope to expand this research project in 2021.
We paid a monthly stipend to the widows of the two rangers who were killed by poachers in January 2020.