Hwange National Park embraces a community of survival. Impactful travel is at the heart of Hideaways, creating life-changing experiences for travellers, in turn changing lives on the ground. Each lodge upholds the ideals of ethical-tourism, supporting and promoting either conservation based or community initiatives, the two usually mutually exclusive.
Hwange National Park is an area as important to the surrounding communities as it is to the wildlife within. An interwoven dependency of survival is understood and highly respected, with community tourism encouraging reciprocal benefits. Most of those involved in the park, from lodge staff, park rangers as well as anti-poaching units come from surrounding rural areas, dependent on the survival of wildlife for survival of their families. This mutually beneficial exchange has turned into a relationship of respect as well as created passionate advocates for conservation.
One particularly successful and consistently proactive programme is the Painted Dog Conservation Centre, a half hour drive from our Elephant’s Eye property. The centre focuses on aiding both humans and dogs – with a high-quality education component to hold courses and spread awareness, as well as a rehabilitation section for injured or orphaned dogs. Employees are trained from local communities, spreading their knowledge and skills amongst others living on the park’s borders.
“Painted dogs are native to Africa, and aren’t found in the wild anywhere else on the planet. They live in small pockets across a handful of countries including Zimbabwe, the home of Painted Dog Conservation. There are roughly 700 painted dogs here, and we work with local populations of both humans and dogs—via conservation, education, and outreach programs—to help them not only survive here, but thrive”. Painted Dog Conservation Centre
The wild dog unfortunately get snared up in poachers traps – initially set for bushmeat, the dogs become collateral damage – an unnecessary and painful death, resulting in potential extinction. The centre aims to address such threats with anti-poaching units constantly patrolling the surrounding areas, removing any snares found along the way, totalling an average of 3000 snares a year. The snares are then repurposed at the centre, employing local residents to create art and craft from the wire, simultaneously creating income for local families. The education facilities and up-skilling extends to a bush camp run by the centre, hosting over 1000 students a year, instilling a sense of pride and respect in their environment, hopefully for generations to come – giving the dogs a fighting chance.
“You can’t expect children to care for something they’ve never even seen. We take them in around 12 years old, where they are open to new ideas and concepts – suddenly that impala is not longer meat to be poached, that tree is no longer firewood – it’s a living, breathing integral part of a system that they are also so dependent upon. It is only by changing these ideals that wildlife has a future”. Painted Dog Conservation Centre
Guests at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange are encouraged to visit the Painted Dog Conservation Centre, coming away with a broader understanding of human wildlife conflict, as well as the interwoven nature of communities and the national park. Their donations as well as art purchases contribute to research, food, employment and medical care – tourism its very own channel for wildlife and community survival. It is impossible to leave the centre and not feel the impact of its dedication, from the commitment and passion of the staff to observing wild dogs in rehab, the species survival dependent on its healing.
With the pause in travel, this is one of many conservation initiatives which have suffered due to lack of tourist revenue. For now, a highly recommended visit to their website (Painted Dog Conservation Centre) to watch their educational video and learn more about the dogs, their threats as well as success stories, and how you can play a remote role in their survival through donations.
From Hideaways to the Painted Dog Conservation Centre, thank you for all your relentless effort and time towards saving this exceptional species.