Wildlife conservation hub to be established in Victoria Falls

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THE Africa Albida Tourism group says it plans to establish a wildlife conservation hub in Victoria Falls to be known as Santonga Park as part of efforts to provide research and educational facilities for wildlife conservation.

BY CHARLES LAITON

In a statement, AAT group chairman Dave Glynn said the facility would be “a force for good” in the region, incorporating conservation, education and research.
The 80-hectare Santonga Park, to be set up at a cost of $18 million, is scheduled to be complete by September 2017.

Glynn described as “terrifying” a World Wildlife Fund report published last year which found that humanity had wiped out 52% of the world’s wildlife in the last 40 years.

“So if we, as humans, have wiped out 52% in the last 40 years, how much are we going to wipe out now in the next 40 years and what can we do to try and reverse at least some of that?” Glynn said.

“We will be involved in fundraising initiatives and we wish to become a specialist conservation, education and research unit, in other words, to add a focal point for conservation in the area.

“We want to tap into research, both regionally and globally, and put together a consolidated view of what is threatened and how it is threatened in our area, and then create a force for good in terms of conservation messaging, conservation education and preserving wildlife.”

Glyn said Victoria Falls was “the eye of the needle of southern African tourism of the future”, being one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and on one of the great rivers of Africa.

He said the Santonga Park would tell the story of Victoria Falls from the very beginning, four billion years ago, through its history, people, plants and wildlife.

“Our research is showing there are incredible stories to tell about Victoria Falls and its surroundings. An example is the very earliest form of life, called a stromatolite, the earliest findings ever found, are not far from Victoria Falls,” Glynn said.

“We also have two dinosaur species that are significant in the global dinosaur story.”

Santonga is expected to be at least a six-hour experience, drawing 120 000 visitors annually.

It is expected to create 150 direct jobs.

In addition to Santonga, AAT, a Zimbabwe-owned company, has a portfolio of hotels and restaurants in Victoria Falls, including its flagship property, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.