Zimbabwe, Zambia

Kariba & Middle Zambezi

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ZimParks take to the air

ZimParks take to the air

In good hands! Halsted’s Aviation Corporation’s Eurocopter is guarded by a Parks officer
In good hands! Halsted’s Aviation Corporation’s Eurocopter is guarded by a Parks officer
The Tashinga Initiative

Zimbabwe’s socio-economic circumstances have presented critical challenges to maintaining conservation integrity and the continuity of wildlife protection efforts by the rangers of the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. Park rangers, a key frontline force, require recognition and support in their efforts to protect our wildlife and environment.

Every set of circumstances presents the opportunity to take action - witness recent operations in Matusadona National Park and the Middle Zambezi Valley protected areas. (In Zambia and Zimbabwe this area is referred to as the Lower Zambezi.)

A John Stevens Safaris client, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently donated helicopter flying time, using Halsted’s Aviation Corporation, to Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). The project was implemented through the Tashinga Initiative in full collaboration with ZimParks.

The operation was made up of a sequence of observation flights, conducted in the Halsted’s Aviation Corporation’s Eurocopter, across Matusadona National Park and the Lower Zambezi Valley (Hurungwe, Mana Pools, Sapi and Chewore complex). This provided an observation platform that enabled the documentation of material results for ZimParks. An aerial survey is an optimal way to observe the landscape and its larger wildlife inhabitants.

In the post-operation debriefs and reports, it was recorded that ranger patrols were observed in the field. This is indicative of a high level of application by ZimParks officers. ZimParks is to be commended for this, given the shortage of transportation and suitable patrol equipment.

There was no evidence of an excess of wildlife carcasses as perhaps may have been expected. The carcasses that were found were those that had already been observed, recorded and responded to by rangers, hunters and safari operators on the ground on previous occasions.

The water table appears to be high currently and the areas that are known for water being present indicated a good presence of game. It appeared that there was decreased evidence of elephant damage to woodland in all escarpment areas flown. The observation flights also involved the identification and destruction of various poacher camps. ZimParks officers and rangers were able to retrieve and destroy assorted tools used for poaching and gold panning.

A highlight of the operation was the rescue and treatment of a snared elephant. This large male was darted, treated, injected with the antidote and was observed to walk off. Its progress will be monitored.

The operation was a great morale booster for the ZimParks rangers. The most notable impact that was provided by the aerial platform was:

• the ground that could be covered;
• the results that could be achieved;
• the timeframe in which these results could be reported.

The operation did not form a comprehensive scientific survey, but it did highlight the urgent requirement for this. The results of a formal scientific aerial survey would provide the essential baseline data from which wildlife population numbers can be accurately determined and hunting quotas can be correctly allocated.

The collaborating partners of this exercise intend to seek funding and/or further partners to make this airborne initiative not just a once-off operation but an ongoing activity backed up by formal survey results.

Enquiries can be made to Lynne Taylor of The Tashinga Initiative Foundation (USA) 501(c)3 or The Tashinga Initiative Trust (Zimbabwe) (lynne@thetashingainitiative.org).

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Kariba & Middle Zambezi

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 14, Sept 2013)

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Halsted’s Aviation Corporation