Hwange National Park is one of the top visited tourist destination in Zimbabwe and few places in the world has the blessings in terms of natural biodiversity. It is among the highest foreign currency earner for the government and the commercial owners of safaris and lodges dotted around the park. Tourism is one of the most lucrative business in Zimbabwe and the world, this can be seen by beautiful, luxurious and expensive lodges and safaris around the park.
Amidst large sums of monies exchanging hands between tourists, a few safari owners and the government, expensive lodges and safari, luxuries foods and seeming good life around the park, but a stone throw away the guardians of these wild animals that are the center of business are languishing in poverty.
“Communities living in and around the Hwange National Park have nothing to show for guiding jealously the national park. The gospel by the Zimparks that the animals belong to the people seem to be just lip service, from schools, roads, water sources, farming their appearance spells a life of suffering to communities sharing boarders with wildlife, ” lamented Ndlelende Ncube Conversationalist and Animal Rights Activist.
“The pictures of homes echo the suffering of the people who are said to be the owners of the foreign currency earner the Hwange National Park. Communities sharing boards with wild animals have been marginalized and sidelined from utilizing their own resources, what we thought is ours has never been ours, and it benefits a few already wealthy individuals and the government officials,” he continued.
This action has led to an increase in poaching related crimes, have resorted to poaching to get their share, they felt betrayed, in the past few years have seen a sharp rise in poaching related crimes, the use of snares, wires and the dreaded cyanide are some of the things used by communities.
> #Zimbabwe Poaching hidden cost .. Endemic Corruption Cycle #ZimWildTrade .. impacts .. on people surviving in shadows #ZimbabweElephants gravity can not be counted https://t.co/vkrl8XKVXo pic.twitter.com/VkXl2ol6e4 🇿🇼🐘— Sharon Hoole (@SharonHoole) November 16, 2018
“As a local I believe we can reduce and stop poaching if we are involved and benefit from our own resources, the so called poachers are our brothers, fathers, uncles, relatives and friends, which makes it easy to tackle the issues of poaching by involving communities,” he added.
Most of these poachers risk their lives and kill animals for peanuts they are given sick money and the money is used for beer. In an interview done by Tikobane Trust team a poacher confessed that they were paid $22 for a kg of ivory meaning they will have to kill as much as possible elephants to make a living.
However if these poachers are educated, Informed and assisted through income generating project most of the will not participate .
The sidelining of locals from participating in tourism has grown roots to an extent that even “our children have a negative attitude towards wild animals, the first thing that happens when they see a small animal is to throw stones at it, all they want is to kill that animal, serious mindset change programs are needed to raise a generation of young conservationist in children living around Hwange National Park,” Ndhelendele alluded.
Thanks to the program done by Painted Dog Conservation were grade 6(six ) and form 2(two) students are given a chance to attend a week long training at their center to learn and be informed about wildlife.
Entrepreneurs sharing boarders with wildlife should be given opportunities to participate in tourism business around the park, when as communities knows that our brothers, sisters and friends are also in the tourism industry it helps to motivate locals to care and protect the animals.
According to the Tikomo Trust Coordinator, Ndlelende, last year a group of local entrepreneurs wanted to own and run the once best lodge in Zimbabwe, Detema Safari Lodge but their ideas were dumped by the fees and selling conditions of the site. “Zimparks need $20,000.00USD as deposit to participate on the action.”
Detema Safari Lodge was one of the highest employers around Dete, a lot of families depended on it, it burned down some years back and has been lying idle for some time, it has turned a grazing place for locals.
“I can’t imagine the resistance from the locals when they hear someone (foreigner) has bought the place, however they will be joy and jubilation if the place can be given to locals. Assigning some places to locals to participate in tourism activities can help to cool the tension.”
Over the years human animal conflicts have increased, from elephants invading local farms to lions and hyenas killing livestock, which are frequent. Recently a family lost 6(six) cows to lions, the only source of income to the family, and you can guess what options they have left for survival? Yes, your guess is correct poaching.
“Also 3(three) donkeys were killed by lions a few couple of miles from homes, in our tradition and experience when a lion eats a donkey their next prey are people.”
When interviewed by Tikobane Trust team the owners of the donkeys said they will deal with the lions their own way, “I don’t know what it is but it’s not good. If no action is given we will soon loose precious souls and our wildlife.
Using proper methods like chilli paper fence, bee hive fence, solar lights among other simple methods and education can help to build lusting and sustainable relationships between humans and wildlife, its everyone duty to create a conducive environment for both humans and wildlife.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, tourists, owners of safari and lodges and communities sharing boarders with the wildlife need to work together to protect our wildlife and improve the lives of communities living in and around the park.