As we huddled under Mopane shrub out of the rain, a moment was taken to appreciate and reflect on the absolute dedication of these men. The CWF anti-poaching unit literally take a vow of silence, hunting for poachers, for kilometers and hours, day in and day out. Blending into the bush – void of sound and completely camouflaged, they disappear amongst the trees, becoming the invisible warriors of wildlife.
Foot patrol starts at dawn. A daylight affair, as it is too dangerous for poachers to be out at night in the wild. With a rotated 25 km circuit, they scan every tree and shrub for possible snares and tracks. Hungry for poachers, the team performs each hike with equal resolve to bring justice. Armed with two batons and a rifle, and the sheer force of determination, they walk.
The number of snares and tracks has reduced considerably over the last few years. An accolade worthy of mention. Animals found in snares are unfortunately still put down; the damage is done. The wire is sent to forestry headquarters to be either kept in a room, or distributed to centres such as the PTC to create wire-art, as well as teach a skill to bring in income, hoping to deter those away from the desperate call of poaching.
“The options are few.”
The demise of the economy in Zimbabwe has been an unwelcome invitation to commit such acts of desperation. Families in the rural areas and on the edge of national parks have to feed their children. The options are few. Placing snares for subsistence meat in small quantities seems more forgiveable than the greedy traps of foreign empires, demanding species for trade. The more recent collapse of the world travel industry has left many more people in financial despair, a high risk for an increase in poaching.
Keeping anti-poaching units employed is an essential service for conservation. Elephant’s Eye, Hwange supports the Conservation and Wildlife Fund (CWF) anti-poaching unit, as well as their own. With the decrease in global tourism this is becoming financially challenging, with funds initially contributed from guests’ bed night levys. Remote assistance is an option for anyone who wishes to play a part in conserving our wildlife, keeping Africa alive for those who wish to plan now and travel later.