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Chisipite Junior School - Rhino Conservation Heroines!

Grade 6 (11 year-olds) and their teachers from Chisipite Junior School in Harare have been raising money for rhino conservation and donating it to The Zambezi Society for 26 years! The process has become a matter of pride and tradition and each year, the girls try to outdo the amount raised by last year’s Grade 6’s!   This year they truly excelled themselves with a donation of over US$9000  handed over at a special Rhino Assembly on 27th September (pictured here).

The Zambezi Society salutes them for their continued commitment and boundless enthusiasm for protecting the rhinos of the Matusadona National Park. No others have show such long-term care. Thank you Chisi. You are AWESOME!


During the past twelve months, The Zambezi Society was able to put the money raised by Chisipite Junior in 2012 to good use for the following activities in the Matusadona National Park:

1.  Eleven camera-traps were purchased for on-the-spot monitoring of black rhinos (and other wildlife) in the Matusadona National Park .  More have been ordered and are on their way.  These are very useful tools.  The cameras are triggered by animal movement and take excellent photographs at day or night, with times and dates recorded.  This reliable data is becoming increasingly valuable for rhino monitoring and protection in view of the recent upsurge in poaching. The cameras are placed at strategic points throughout the Park,  and are already proving their worth in terms of reliable sightings.


2.  An aerial survey of the flatlands of the Matusadona National Park was carried out by the Society in September 2013, with the aim of searching for evidence of land-based poaching activities.   The survey confirmed that there is definitely an increased threat and a number of elephant carcasses (the obvious victims of poaching) were spotted from the air.  More surveys are planned for next year.


3.  Repairs and maintenance were carried out to the  Zambezi Society Land-Rover which is based at Tashinga Headquarters in the Matusadona National Park and is used to assist with anti-poaching deployment and other research activities within the Park.

4.  Fuel and logistics support

This year’s funds will greatly assist with  The Zambezi Society’s renewed response to the increasing poaching threat in the Matusadona National Park (see below).

Matusadona - an Escalating Poaching Threat

The Society’s Operations Director, Pete Musto, reports that there has been a sudden and alarming upsurge in poaching in the Matusadona National Park in recent months with both rhino and elephant being targeted.

This sorry sight (pictured) among others, was what greeted him on his most recent field visit to the Park in early December:


Reacting to this, The Zambezi Society and The Tashinga Initiative along with the safari operators in the area have put together a plan to increase the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s capacity to contain the situation.  This will include increasing the amount of material support that the Park already gets from the private non-profit organisations in the way of boats, vehicles and fuel etc.

Two landcruisers and two boats are being deployed in the Park to be used for ranger deployments.
More importantly, we will have someone based in the Park to monitor and assist with deployments. He will also be involved in day-to-day management assistance and longer term planning.
A ranger training programme will also form part of this initiative.
The Zambezi Society is playing an important role with the use of camera traps within the Park (see above) to monitor animal movement and assist with anti-poaching efforts.

The details of this plan are still being finalised, but MAPP (the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project), a collaboration between The Tashinga Initiative and the tourism operators, is already up and running and the Zambezi Society’s new initiative will build on and tie into that.

We are most grateful to Chisipite Junior School, the Balmain Trust (UK) and our other loyal donors,  for helping to ensure that we maintain a watchdog presence in this Park and provide assistance where it is most needed for conserving and protecting rhinos.


Planning for Development and Wildlife in Chirundu

Environmental degradation and wildlife conflict is becoming an increasing problem at the border town of Chirundu where the main highway linking Harare with Lusaka crosses the Zambezi River over a large road bridge.  Almost all goods transported between southern and central Africa are now carried along this road in huge haulage trucks, all of which have to cross the Chirundu border bridge.
There are often long delays and queues of trucks line the highway, as drivers wait for their paperwork to be processed at the border.
Lack of planning has meant that there is no provision of proper facilities for housing and feeding these truck drivers, and the resulting chaos is an environmental and health disaster in the making.  To make matters worse, wildlife in the surrounding areas is often attracted to scavenge in the piles of rubbish which lie around, and there are frequent incidents where baboons or elephants have to be shot because they have become a nuisance to people.


Chirundu Town Council resorted to allocating stands of land  for “ribbon-development” along the highway, where haulage companies have built facilities for their drivers and staff to use while they wait at the border This has proved to be very controversial, as some of the allocations have taken place without proper planning procedures and consultation and developments are affecting wildlife and nearby water sources.

The Zambezi Society has engaged the relevant authorities in Chirundu and the region to try to find a long-term solution to this problem that will ensure that wildlife and water sources in the area are not harmed.

A stakeholders meeting was held on 24th May 2013, at Twin Rivers Motel, Karoi to discuss future planning for the town and its surrounds, in the absence of an existing Local Plan.  The Zambezi Society was represented by Mrs Leslee Maasdorp.  At the meeting, the representatives of the trucking company Biltrans agreed to move to another stand as the site allocated to them (pictured above right) was located right in the path of wildlife movement between Buffalo and Calisho Springs which are important dry season watering holes nearby.
Also discussed was the development of a Local Plan to establish zones for residential, business and wildlife areas.   Funding will have to be sourced for this Plan.

A small group of stakeholders, subsequently visited the area in early November 2013 to discuss the future Plan with the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Authority and the Local Chirundu Board.  The aim of these discussions was to re-allocate the land previously set aside for trucking sites in order to take into account wildlife movement and human-wildlife conflict.  This included the recommendation that a large area of wild land be set aside near Chirundu as a buffer zone/game park which would also serve as recreational area for residents of Chirundu and visitors to the area.
The next step is to map the area from satellite imagery, and funding is to be sourced for this either through stakeholders or UNESCO, as this area is part of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve designated in 2011.
The Zambezi Society has identified local mapping expertise and is appealing for up to US$3000-worth of funding to assist with this initial process which can kick-start the planning.


If you can help with this, we would be most grateful.  Please contact the Zambezi Society direct or make a contribution via our website at this link: SUPPORT US.

Kariba Housing Development Controversy

Concerned residents of Kariba town and members of the very active Kariba Animal Welfare Trust Fund (KAWFT) are grateful to The Zambezi Society for bringing to their attention a recent town council proposal to develop housing  in the Baobab Ridge Extension area of the town that includes valuable wildlife corridors.

The proposal is to satisfy a request by the Zimbabwe Power Corporation (ZPC) for land to house the contractors who will work on the extension of the Kariba Dam Hydro Power Station.


The Society, along with others, submitted letters of concern to the authorities, suggesting ways in which the development plan in question could be scaled down to accommodate all current stakeholders without an undue impact on the biodiversity of the area, wildlife access to Lake Kariba, and the inherent tourist attraction of wildlife in and around Kariba.

Meetings have been held and negotiations have taken place to find a way forward.  The proposal has been modified to take into account stakeholder concerns.

The map above shows the approximate location of the proposed development, with modifications included, but it has yet to be finalised.

We congratulate the people of Kariba on their willingness to compromise for the sake of respecting, maintaining and protecting their healthy populations of wildlife.

Leopard Project Update

The Zambezi Society continues to work with WildCRU of (Oxford University), and the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority ZPWMA  (ZPWMA) on the Zimbabwe Leopard Project, funded by the Darwin Initiative UK .  The aim of this project is to facilitate the collection and handling of ecological and management data to support a National Leopard Management Strategy in Zimbabwe.
Spoor surveys form an important part of the project in order to get a ‘spoor density  index’ for each concession, be it Parks Estate, communal (CAMPFIRE) or private conservancy, which can then be used for comparative purposes.  In each region both hunting and non-hunting areas have been surveyed so that the impact of trophy hunting off-take for each hunting concession may be assessed.

By the end of 2012 a total of 28 sites had been surveyed countrywide covering an area of 48 123 km2 (12% of the country) and a total of 14 400km of transect had been surveyed.

Leopard-survey-sites-page Leopard-survey-density-page

In 2013 another nine surveys have been done, five in NW Matabeleland (Matetsi units 6&7, Zambezi NP, Robins, Shakwanki and Main Camp in Hwange NP and part of Hwange RDC), three in the SE lowveld (Malipati, Mahenye – communal and Malilangwe) and Matusadona NP in Central Region. The data from the 2013 surveys is still being analysed.
Once this process has been completed the findings will be used to formulate a national leopard management strategy. This should be in place early next year.

NOTE: The maps and data above do not include the surveys done in 2013.


Presentation evening in Harare

On 17th July 2013,  The Zambezi Society hosted an evening for its supporters and friends in Harare, with an illustrated presentation by Dr Andy Loveridge of WildCRU,  who heads up the current Leopard Project.  His talk was entitled LION & LEOPARD CONSERVATION IN ZIMBABWE.   The event was very well attended.  Andy provided fascinating facts, details and insights from his many years of field research on these two charismatic species.

The Society is most grateful to CABS Zimbabwe for the generous donation of their auditorium as a venue for the evening.

Brown Hyena range extension?


The picture above left was taken by a camera trap during the night of 21 August 2013, on the floodplain in front of the RIFA Conservation Education Camp on the Zambezi River just upstream from Chirundu. The animal was feeding off old, dry bones.

Experts agree that it can only be a Brown Hyena – a species whose distribution has not hitherto been recorded in the Zambezi Valley!  (See identification picture and map.)   It now appears that this hyena species is more widely distributed in Zimbabwe than previously known, as there have been reports of at least four other locations from elsewhere in Zimbabwe.

RIFA is now looking for sighting records of the Brown Hyena.  If you have seen one or photographed one, please let us know with details such as date, place (GPS or locstat), what it was doing, its habitat and how many sightings.  We will then pass the information on.

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