THE Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (Vapu) in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority officials have scored a major victory recovering and removing over 22 000 snares laid by poachers since 1999.
CHARLES LAITON,SENIOR REPORTER-RECENTLY IN VICTORIA FALLS
The same anti-poaching unit has apprehended more than 600 poachers since the start of the operations in Victoria Falls National Park over a 10-year period.
Professional safari guide and tour operator Charles Brightman, who heads the private anti-poaching unit, said there were various types of poaching throughout the Victoria Falls National Park, but of major concern was the increase in wildlife poaching.
He further said of late, there had been an increase in bush-meat poaching believed to be for either local consumption or export. Brightman said since the inception of his anti-poaching unit in 1999, his team of 16 scouts that patrols the Victoria Falls National Park every day of the week, with the help of officials from the National Parks, have had to contend with heavily armed poachers and they have called on the government to beef-up security in the parks.
“After realising the increase of poaching activities in our parks I came up with an idea to assist the National Parks and I approached the authorities and sold my idea of introducing a private anti-poaching unit which they accepted,” Brighton said.
“So far, we have removed about 22 000 snares from the parks and arrested over 600 poachers which means we increased the safety of our animals and prevented deaths and injuries that would have occurred.
“Our major challenge now is funding and shortage of manpower since we rely mainly on sponsorship. We are grateful to Africa Albida Tourism, the owners of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, who have been our major sponsors since we started.”
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Brightman further said the preservation of wildlife was of paramount importance since it provided downstream benefits such as employment to the youths in various sectors of the tourism industry.
“Poachers do destroy our tourism sector and by preventing their activities, we create employment for our youths and increase the number of tourists visiting our parks to see different types of animals and at the same time this increases revenue for the government. In essence, more wildlife means more tourists and more jobs,” Brightman said.
The safari operator said he was appealing to the corporate world to assist in sponsoring his operations which run on a budget of $5 500 per month and called for donations in the form of uniforms, boots, binoculars and hats.
Victoria Falls National Parks and Wildlife Management regional manager Arthur Musakwa confirmed his organisation’s cordial working relations with Vapu.
“We are working closely with them, but as of now I am unable to confirm the figures off-hand. I need to verify with the officers who know the area that is patrolled by the scouts,” Musakwa said.
The country recently lost over 115 elephants at Hwange National Park through cyanide poisoning.