Up until 2000, Zimbabwe was home to top professional guides and a diverse range of animals in varied habitats, making it a great destination for the safari tourist. Unfortunately political strife and rising poverty have eroded this natural bounty, placing the country’s wildlife at serious risk.
Poaching is a world-wide problem and is on the increase, with many animals hunted for trophy value or slaughtered for their body parts which fetch huge sums on the black market.
The Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit is one of the organisations involved in the daily grind of nature conservation. Established in 1999 by Charles Brightman, a local safari operator, and the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, VFAPU deals with three different types of poaching:
Subsistence Poaching is the result of poverty and the hunting tradition of locals in the Victoria Falls area. Animals caught in this way are either eaten or sold on the lucrative bush meat market. The VFAPU spends most of its energy removing snares, assisting wounded animals and finding alternative employment for the protagonists. Education initiatives are started from an early age at the schools in the area, warning scholars of the risks attached to poaching.
Environmental Poaching refers to the decimation of natural vegetation for firewood or the making of curios in order to sell them. The VFAPU has made alternative sources of wood available to these people and arranged for sponsorship of small ecologically friendly stoves for their use at home.
Professional Poaching is where animals are killed for their body parts, which are sold for very high prices on the international market. These poachers are a dangerous breed and many conservationists have been killed while trying to apprehend them. Needless to say, they are treated with little mercy by the authorities, usually ending up in prison.
The VFAPU is a non-profit organisation and it is only thanks to the generous donations of their sponsors and partners such as Ilala Lodge Hotel that they are able to continue this vital work. So the next time you are visiting the wonders of Victoria Falls pop in to the VFAPU and see what you can do to help.