Vic Falls poaching unit scores success

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THE Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (Vapu) in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has removed over 22 000 snares laid by poachers since 1999. Vapu has also arrested more than 600 poachers since it began operating at the Victoria Falls National Park.

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CHARLES LAITON
Staff REPORTER

Professional safari guide and tour operator Charles Brightman, who heads the private anti-poaching unit, said there were various types of poaching throughout the game reserve.

He said of late there had been an increase in game meat poaching believed to be for either local consumption or export.

Brightman said since the inception of Vapu in 1999, his team of 16 scouts that patrol the game reserve every day with the help of Zimparks, had to contend with heavily armed poachers.

“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 to sell my idea of introducing a private anti-poaching unit which they accepted,” he 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.”

Brightman said preserving 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. 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 it increases revenue for the government,” he said.

“In essence, more wildlife means more tourists and more jobs.”

Brightman 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 donation in the form of uniforms, boots, binoculars and hats.

Zimparks regional manager for Victoria Falls Arthur Musakwa said they had an excellent working relationship with Vapu.

“We are working closely with them, but as of now I am unable to confirm the figures off-hand,” he said.

“I need to verify with the officers who know the area that is patrolled by the scouts.” Musakwa said.

Zimbabwe last year recorded one of the worst cases of poaching where over 100 elephants were killed at the Hwange National Park through the use of cyanide.