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Zambezi Society speech for World Wildlife Day, Harare, 3rd march 2018

Zambezi Society Gary Layard addresses a crowd in Harare on World Wildlife Day 3 March 2018

The Zambezi Society was invited to give a speech on behalf of support stakeholders as a curtain-raiser to the address by Zimbabwe’s Minister of the Environment, at the World Wildlife Day celebrations in Harare on Saturday 3rd March 2018.  Zambezi Society Operations Manager, Gary Layard, (pictured), addressed dignitaries and a large crowd at the event. 


Here is the text of his speech:-

“The Honourable Minister Oppah Muchinguri – Kashiri, the permanent Secretary Ambassador Grace Mutandiro, the Director General of Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Mr Fulton Mangwanya, Deputy Directors Matipano and Manyumwa, other Directors and senior staff of National Parks, Ladies and Gentleman.  My name is Gary Layard.  I represent The Zambezi Society and The Zambezi Elephant Fund as Operations Co-ordinator.

My sincere thanks to ZimParks for not only inviting us to speak today at World Wildlife Day, but also allowing us to partner them in supporting the vitally important work that they do in managing and protecting our natural wildlife resources.

Zimbabwe has the second largest population of African elephants, a significantly large wild population of lion and leopard, and one of the largest contiguous wilderness areas under State protection in the world – this being the Zambezi Valley. This places us on the global map as an extremely important country in this regard.   In our new Zimbabwean era, the potential to grow our tourism sector is huge because of this wildlife and wilderness heritage.  The well-being of the Parks and Wildlife Authority and Parks Estates as a whole, now and into the future, is therefore paramount.

Very briefly to outline the projects that I am directly involved with through The Zambezi Society:

World Wildlife Day Speech 3 Mar 2018

  1. We run an anti-poaching Landcruiser based in Mana Pools.  This vehicle does approximately 3000km/month deploying and uplifting anti-poaching ranger call signs. With donor funding we have recently managed to procure  a second Landcruiser which will now double our capacity on the ground
  2. We carry out ranger firearms training courses  – in the last 18 months we have trained 60 rangers, based in the Zambezi Valley, in firearms safety and proficiency. During this time there have been at least 6 successful contacts involving Rangers we have trained and armed elephant poachers in the Zambezi Valley. Partly as a result of these successes, the number of known poached elephants in the Zambezi Valley has decreased in the last 4 years to about 25% of previous numbers.
  3. We supply donor food for anti poaching patrols in Matusadona, Marongora and Mana Pools
  4. And again, through donor funding, we have now ordered a state of the art, anti-poaching reaction boat, which will be based on the Zambezi River at Mana Pools – delivery should be in about 8 weeks from now.

At this point is important to mention the collaboration and relationships that The Zambezi Society has with other non-profit,  volunteer organisations that also carry out important support work. The Zambezi Elephant Fund, started by John and Nicci Stevens, is a donor fund-raising entity that we are closely partnered with. Without donor funding we would not be able to continue to run and grow the projects we are currently involved with.

Logo combo

The Zambezi Elephant Fund supports not only The Zambezi Society but a number of our implementing partners.  Examples of these include MAPP (the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project) which has had some outstanding  anti-poaching results in the Matusadona National Park and surrounds, not only on the ground and but also with intelligence gathering.  Flying for Wildlife – is an organisation of volunteer pilots and aircraft providing aerial support for anti-poaching.   Bushlife Support Unit is involved with the deployment of rangers, support of wet season anti-poaching reaction camps, as well as intelligence gathering.  The Tikki Hywood Trust has been extremely effective in reinforcing anti-poaching legislation as well as prosecutions in all aspects of illegal wildlife trafficking.  The Tashinga Initiative was responsible for the implementation and building of the new Zavaru anti-poaching reaction base in Mana Pools, amongst numerous other ranger welfare projects carried out. The Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust does excellent work in helping to resolve human/ animal conflict in and around the Kariba area.

It is important to note that these organisations are largely run by dedicated volunteer Zimbabweans, who are not paid for their work.  No one more so than the Zambezi Society Strategic Director, Richard Maasdorp, who has done an absolutely outstanding job in coordinating and maintaining the collaboration of all these various entities under the funding umbrella of the Zambezi Elephant Fund. There are also a number of Tour Operators in the Zambezi Valley who have also contributed enormously in support of National Parks.

Rangers Mana Pools Mar 2018

Finally I would like to touch on a subject that is close to my heart.  Having spent a significant amount of time in the Zambezi Valley, and other parts of the Parks Estate in recent years, I am always humbled and enthused by the men and women on the ground, these being our National Parks Rangers and their senior officers. These brave people are often overlooked – they risk their lives daily, often in unbelievably difficult circumstances, to carry out their work. Yet this work is done, by and large, with enthusiastic, dedicated professionalism.

I would ask you on World Wildlife Day today, to pay tribute and remember our rangers, as they continue to protect and maintain our Zimbabwean wilderness heritage for us, our children and our children’s children.

Thank you most sincerely for listening.”



World Wildlife Day, Harare

3rd March 2018

The Zambezi Society BULLETIN - December 2017


Read our Zambezi Society News Bulletin for December 2017 HERE.

It is also available for download in PDF format. You can download this Bulletin here: – Zambezi Society Bulletin December 2017  




– Collaborative action is paying off… but…
– GIVE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL THIS YEAR – help protect the Zambezi’s elephants
– Priority funding packages
– Z-CAN: A collaborative alliance in the Zambezi Valley
–  Telling it as it is – raising international support for the Zambezi’s elephants
– The Zambezi Society
–  Flying for Wildlife
–  Kariba Animal Welfare Fund Trust
–  MAPP (Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project)
–  Bushlife Support Unit
–  Zambezi Society attends Conservation Lab 2017
–  Chisipite Junior School: another successful fund-raising year
–  Community work
–  Mana Pools Tourism developments: Nkupe Camp – we wait
–  Management Plan for the Mana/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site
– More tourism sites on the cards
– Biosphere Reserve Deliberations
–  International Payments – Please note new account
– Thank you



THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation.  We rely on donations from individuals and organisations in support of our work. Please help us to protect the Zambezi River’s valuable wildlife and wildernesses.  You can help by donating via our secure online PAYNOW facility or via a bank transfer –  see SUPPORT THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY.  Follow us on FACEBOOK

THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY would like to thank its friends and supporters for their overwhelming response to our Public Consultation Survey on the proposed tourism development at Nkupe Camp in Mana Pools National Park.    

As a result of the feedback received (85 replies to date), we have submitted the following official response to the consultants conducting the preliminary Environment Impact Assement (EIA) exercise, to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and to African Bush Camps, the proposed developers:-




The Zambezi Society welcomes the opportunity to provide inputs into the EIA process for this proposed
tourism development at Nkupe Campsite in Mana Pools. However we find that the information
provided by the developer and the EIA consutancy is inadequate and insufficiently detailed for us to
provide other than preliminary and general comments on this proposal.

We have nonetheless consulted with our constituency and have received to date 74 general responses which we include in the attached document in support of our comments below.

The Zambezi Society understands the need for sustainable tourism development and job creation in
Mana Pools. However, we believe that this should only take place if:-

  • It does not impact adversely upon the globally-important wilderness and wildlife values which resulted in the Mana/Sapi/Chewore designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Core Area of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve
  • Does not have detrimental effects on the ecology of the narrow strip of “ alluvial terrace” environment along the Zambezi River
  • Falls within the guidelines recommended by the Mana Pools Management Plan developed by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Authority in consultation with all stakeholders. (We recognise, however, the need to urgently review components of the existing Plan, and believe that any new tourism developments should only be taking place within the Mana Pools in the light of a renewed and updated Management Plan.)
  • Does not deprive ordinary Zimbabweans of access to and enjoyment of prime areas within the Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site. (The Parks and Wildlife Act (Part IV Section 21) specifically states that “The purposes for which national parks are or may be constituted under this Act shall be— (a) to preserve and protect the natural landscape and scenery therein; and (b) to preserve and protect wild life and plants and the natural ecological stability of wild life and plant communities therein; for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of the public.)

In the 2006 Management Plan for Mana Pools, currently used by ZimParks when reporting to UNESCO regarding the status of the World Heritage Site), a list of Guiding Principles were elaborated for the Mana Pools National Park Tourism Programme. They are listed below:-

· 1. Wilderness qualities will be maintained
· 2. Tourism away from the river will be encouraged
· 3. Camping and low impacted tented camps will be promoted
· 4. Unescorted walking will continue to be permitted
· 5. Citizen and educational access will be promoted
· 6. ZPWMA accommodation will be competitive
· 7. Linkages with appropriate communal areas will be encouraged
· 8. Exclusive use areas will be discouraged

These Principles were laid down with the long-term future of the Park in mind, in order to protect the globally-recognised integrity of the Park’s ecology and its wilderness values, as well as to ensure rights of access for the public, in particular, future generations of Zimbabwean citizens.

However, in 2017, citizen access to the riverside wilderness areas of Mana Pools National Park has been gradually “squeezed out ” in favour of short-term gains offered by the leasing of exclusive tour operator sites (with a predominantly regional and international clientele)  along the Zambezi  River frontage, some with considerable exclusion zones around them.   Sites previously available to the public, but now exclusively occupied by tour operators include:  Vundu Camp ; Vine Camp; Old Ndungu 1 & 2; Trichelia Camp; Goliath Camp and Croton Camp.

Now Nkupe Camp is proposed as a tour operator-exclusive semi-permanent site, and we believe that BBC Camp and an area on the Chitembe River in the Nyamatusi Wilderness Area are also slated for operator development.


The Zambezi Society believes that the site in question is not suitable for the proposed tourism
development for the reasons outlined below, and that an alternative site should be chosen.

1)  The site proposed is adjacent to the Zambezi River and its position directly contradicts the
recommendations of the Mana Management Plan which advises “low impact accommodation
facilities away from the river” in order to reduce tourism pressure on the very fragile ecosystem
of the Mana alluvial terrace area.

2) The Mana and Chiruwe rivers form a natural corridor for wildlife between the interior and the
Zambezi River front. This has already been disturbed by the introduction of the seasonal
“temporary extended” site for John’s Camp (Robin Pope Safaris) at the Croton Camp site. An
all-year-round “semi-permanent” development in this area would effectively further impact
upon the free movement of wildlife to the river at this point. (See map below)


3) A 24-bed safari camp with 12 tents built on raised wooden decks occupying a prime area ofriverine environment with associated staff facilities and outbuildings (kitchen, storeroom, workshop and staff accommodation of prefabricated structures set on raised wooden decks) cannot be described as “low impact” as advocated in the Management Plan

4) The site chosen is an existing low-impact public Exclusive campsite (see map). Development of a 24-bed camp in this site would therefore reduce the camping opportunities available to visitors seeking a low-impact tourism experience (often Zimbabweans) and necessitate the replacement of this site with an alternative along the river, adding to the riverine tourism pressure specifically advocated against in the Management Plan.

5) The site overlooks Mana Mouth a popular spot for visitor recreation, fishing, game viewing, walking and sundowners (see map above and image below)


This area is a focal point for bird-watching, with the presence of a nesting colony of bee-eaters in the Mana riverbank and a number of rare species (e.g. the long-toed Lapwing and the Rufousbellied Heron) resident on the marshy floodplain immediately below the Nkupe camp site.  The presence of a 24-bed safari camp with associated “back-end” staff facilities, noise etc so close to this area is not conducive either to the wellbeing of these bird species, the peaceful enjoyment of the Mana Mouth visitors and wildlife or birding enthusiasts or the privacy of safari camp guests. The impacts in all cases would be unsuitable and create a conflict of visitor uses. It would be a gross infringement of the rights of visitors to Mana Pools if public access to Mana Mouth were to be prevented by en exclusion zone around the camp. The Mana Pools Management Plan makes specific reference to avoiding such exclusivity.

6) Road access to this site from Nyamepi Camp is currently via small “bushtracks” which become impassable and rutted during the rainy season because of the nature of the soils in Mana Pools. These would be insufficient to cope with the traffic required to facilitate construction of a “semi-permanent” safari camp at Nkupe, which lies between the Mana and Chiruwe river systems. So some fairly major road reconstruction and possibly bridge-building would have to take place because of the site’s location. This would hugely impact on the Mana Pools alluvial terrace environment and destroy the wilderness quality of the existing “low key” bushtrack system.

7) Since roads into the proposed lodge would only be useable for the dry months of the year, the safari camp is proposing that clients and staff will access the camp by boat from Mana and Chirundu during the rainy season and that a temporary floating jetty will be required on the Zambezi River to moor the boats. Currently only motorboats with small engines are allowed on the Zambezi River in Mana Pools during the rainy season, with very good reason – to reduce impacts on the river ecology and on wilderness values. Long-distance ferrying of passengers along the river from Chirundu would require larger boat motors and use of the Zambezi River main channel. This would increase noise levels and create further disturbance of wilderness values on both sides of the river and create increased wave action which would impact on riverbanks and sandbanks, potentially disturbing nesting birds etc. The main channel of the Zambezi River is currently flowing at a considerable distance from the proposed location of the camp. The construction and use of a jetty (even if it is “temporary” and “seasonal”) will entail road access across the sensitive floodplain wetland in order for the jetty to be safely reached. This is a gross violation of the wetland value of a RAMSAR site and will undoubtedly be a huge disturbance for wildlife and birdlife on the floodplain, as well as an eyesore for other visitors in the Nyamepi/Mana Mouth area. (With regard to general tour operator boat access to Mana Pools from Chirundu, see below our recommendation for a shared jetty facility at the western periphery of the Park, which would serve to minimise impacts and disturbance).

8) The proposed site lies within the Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Trans-Frontier Conservation Area and is directly opposite the Zambian Lower Zambezi National Park where lodge development has deliberately been kept to a minimum (most tourism developments on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River are in the Chiawa Game Management Area). With its current use as a public exclusive campsite, this site has the advantage of creating minimal visual impact from the Zambian side or the river. The proposed lodge development, however, has the potential to create considerably increased visual and noise impacts which may be unacceptable to the Zambian authorities and stakeholders. (Have they been consulted in this regard as part of any EIA process?)

9) The Parks Authority cites The Mana Pools Management Plan in its reporting to UNESCO on the state of this World Heritage Site. However, this particular tourism development proposal situated at a prime riverine site was not presented during the long process of negotiations and compromise that resulted in the Management Plan.

10) It appears that the Parks Authority has issued an offer letter to the tour operator BEFORE stakeholder consultation on the suitability of this site for such a development. We assume that as a Public Authority, ZimParks has followed due process in terms of required procedures for allocation of this site for tourism development. A breach of such due process could result in local and international outrage, given the global recognition of Mana Pools as a World Heritage Site, and would be an embarrassment to Zimbabwe and the region.

11) African Bush Camps already has an inland concession at Kanga Pan. It is now being offered a riverside year-round “semi-permanent” site in addition to its existing concession. Previously the company was operating its riverside operation, Zambezi Expeditions, as a mobile tented safari camp. So the question arises: why has the company been offered an all-year-round semi-permanent site instead of the seasonal temporary extended (TEC) option which has been allocated to other Mana Pools operators this year?

12) A previous application for a 24-bed tourism development at the Nkupe Camp site was proposed in 2011. The Zambezi Society made similar objections as above in a preliminary EIA process for this application. The project did not progress. We question why the same site is now being put forward again for a similar tourism development, given the objections previously raised.

13) While The Zambezi Society recognises that the ZWPMA is trying to maximise its revenue by encouraging tourism opportunities in popular areas like Mana Pools, and that the exclusive site leases paid by tourism operators are an important source of income for the Authority, we believe that the issuing of new tourism leases should not be undertaken until the Authority has found solutions to the current inefficiencies of the central booking system for public campsites like Nkupe. The system frequently shows the public Nkupe campsite to be fully booked, but in reality there is no-one using the site. Such site-booking inefficiencies are losing the Authority valuable income from the general public. (See recommendations below).

In the opinion of The Zambezi Society, the proposal as it stands is in clear violation of the Parks Authority’s mandate to conserve ecological integrity while allowing access and enjoyment of this prime tourism site by multiple and diverse groups of visitors .

The Zimbabwe Parks Authority needs to recognise the importance of its commitment to the long-term conservation of wilderness and wildlife values in prime National Park areas like Mana Pools, for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of the public. Mana Pools is also globally valued as a World Heritage Site, a Core Area of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, an Important Bird Area, a RAMSAR wetland site, and a Trans-Frontier Conservation Area. The potential long-term impacts of leasing “exclusive-use” sections of such a globally-significant area for tourism development should not be ignored in favour of short-term income generating solutions for the Parks Management Authority.

We therefore recommend that:-

1) Any prior approval for this development at the public Nkupe Campsite as outlined in the proposal be revoked and any development plans/activities carried out so far be halted.

2) This tourism development be down-sized to a 12-bed seasonal “temporary extended” (TEC) camp and allocated either an existing tour operators campsite (e.g. Old Ndungu 1) like the other operators (as per the recommendations of the Mana Pools Management Plan), or an alternative site at a location further removed from the more popular public-use areas of the Park (see Recommendation 3 below)

3) In urgent negotiation with stakeholders, components of the Mana Pools Management Plan be revised to make provision for the inclusion of carefully-chosen tourism development sites along the Zambezi River within the Nyamatusi Wilderness Area. This would help to reduce the current tourism development pressure in the narrow riverside zone along the Mana Pools “floodplain”.

4) The issue of boat access into Mana Pools via Chirundu (for tour operators) should be addressed with the construction of a shared jetty facility at an agreed site at the western periphery of the Park, to reduce impacts on the Park ecology and on its wilderness value for visitors.

5) An urgent overhaul of the current Parks central booking system in order to improve efficiency and thereby maximise on tourism revenues from the public. Mana Pools could be used as a pilot for this.

6) All due processes have been followed by the Authority in allocation of this (and any past or future) tourism lease agreements.

The Zambezi Society looks forward to more detailed engagement as an important stakeholder in the ongoing EIA process for this development, in a reduced form and at an alternative location, which will be more appropriate to long-term conservation and sustainable tourism in the Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site.”

You can find the Zambezi Society’s CONSULTATION SURVEY ON THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT NKUPE CAMP as News Items on our website at



THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation.  We rely on donations from individuals and organisations in support of our work. Please help us to protect the Zambezi River’s valuable wildlife and wildernesses.  You can help by donating via our secure online PAYNOW facility or via a bank transfer –  see SUPPORT THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY.  Follow us on FACEBOOK

The Zambezi Society seeks your views – Feel free to share widely


Ledgeback Safaris (Pvt.) Ltd trading as African Bush Camps is planning to construct an exclusive tourism camp at Nkupe Campsite in Mana Pools National Park in line with an offer letter from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and a proposed lease.

Some details of this development and a map of the area provided by the developers are given below, together with some additional facts about the site.  PLEASE READ ALL CAREFULLY.

The Zambezi Society has been asked to provide inputs by 20th June 2017into a stakeholder consultation exercise for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is required for this development.

To this end, we are conducting an urgent survey of our supporters and Social Media constituency to ascertain public opinion about the issue.

Give us your name and tell us where you live (country).
Then answer the questions below as succinctly as possible.
Note that your responses may be copied directly in The Zambezi Society’s submission to the consultants conducting the EIA and to ZimParks.  

1. What are your views about the proposed camp?
2. Do you see any negative impacts?
3. Do you see any positive impacts?
4. Do you have any recommendations to mitigate any negative impacts or to enhance positive ones?
5. Any other comments/suggestions?

Please e-mail your responses BEFORE 16th June 2017 to


“This project is part of on-going efforts by ZPWMA to ensure that Zimbabwe’s national parks are operating in a financially viable and environmentally sustainable manner. The project contributes to specific global sustainable development goals (clean energy and responsible non-consumptive tourism) and to the Infrastructure and Utilities cluster of ZIMASSET.

Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) and the Lower Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (shared with Zambia). Mana Pools and is an Important Bird Area and the floodplain is a RAMSAR wetland site. The proponent is fully aware of the international importance and sensitive ecology of the site and aims to minimise any negative environmental impacts by adopting appropriate “green” initiatives that conform to the general practices associated with the operations of camps in Mana Pools.

The development consists of a semi permanent tented camp and associated infrastructure at an existing exclusive camp site at Nkupe, which was previously open as a temporary camp to operators and the public.

The site is at the junction of the Mana and Zambezi rivers, downstream of Nyamepi Camp and the ZPWMA head quarters (see map).


The camp will be constructed in two phases, each catering for up to 12 beds. Guest accommodation will be in the form of khaki coloured tents on raised wooden platforms, each with en suite ablutions, located under shady trees with views of the Zambezi River and either side of a central living area.

The kitchen, storeroom, workshop and staff accommodation will be of prefabricated structures set on raised wooden decks to limit the use of concrete where possible, and set back and out of sight from the river.

Power will be provided by solar panels with battery storage and cooking fuel will be gas. Water will be drawn from the river and treated to potable standards. Waste water and sewage will be passed through a closed biological treatment system approved by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Dry season access will be via existing bush tracks from Nyamepi Camp but during the heavy rains, the camp may be accessed by boat from Nyamepi or Chirundu. A temporary floating jetty will be constructed for mooring the boats.

Detailed environmental management plans will be developed to enhance the positive impacts of the camp and to mitigate the negative impacts during the construction and operational stages of the project. The management plans will form part of the EIA report.

In line with Statutory Instrument No. 7 of 2007, the Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessments and Ecosystems Protection Regulations) and the Environmental Management Act, 2011, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for such projects.  The project is at the third stage, following submission of an Environmental Prospectus/Scoping report to the EMA. This notice serves to inform stakeholders that the EMA registered environmental consultants, BLACK CRYSTAL CONSULTING, and the proponent, LEDGEBACK SAFARIS, wish to solicit concerns and views regarding the environmental and social aspects of the project.”

a) Change of use from Public to Private:  Nkupe campsite was previously a public campsite and is now to be removed from Public Use for development of a private tour operators camp.
b)  Potential impact on public access rights to the Zambezi River/Mana Mouth for recreation: The Mana River Mouth area (and Chessa camp) which are immediately adjacent to the development are popular scenic and recreational spots for the visiting public and fishermen. It is not clear what impact the development of the Nkupe site for exclusive tour operator use will have on this public access, nor if any exclusion zone around the new camp will incorporate these places and therefore restrict access to them.
c)  The Mana Pools Management Plan:  it is not clear where this proposed development fits with the existing Management Plan for Mana Pools (which is quoted by ZimParks when submitting progress reports to UNESCO on the status of this World Heritage Site).
d)  Traffic impacts:  it is not clear what impacts increased tour operator traffic will have on the existing game-viewing bush tracks to and from Nyamepi Camp which are to be used for dry-season access to the new camp.

Please e-mail your responses BEFORE 16th June 2017 to




The Zambezi Society BULLETIN - March 2017


Read The Zambezi Society’s latest news as at March 2017 at this link:


Sign up online for an E-mail Subscription to receive these Bulletins direct to your Inbox. 




– A year on – we remember Claudio & Max Chiarelli


–  Highest elephant losses related to lack of resources/Zamsoc’s role.

– Anti-Poaching Appeal

– Improved collaboration on all fronts

– Funding grants supporting the War on Poaching:  Thank you

– Zambezi Society ranger firearms training continues

– Bushlife Support Unit holds the fort during the rains

– Trails & tribulations of the rainy season

– Flying for Wildlife:  fueling up for a busy season

– Tashinga Initiative completes a new anti-poaching base


–  4X4 Club of Zimbabwe to open roads at Easter

– Public Consultation: Clarity on definition of “Commercial Photography” in National Parks


– The crossing point between greed and poverty

– Anti-poaching support, ranger rations and road maintenance.


– Mavuradonha Wilderness Area declared a National Monument

– Biosphere Reserve – Zambezi Society offers management assistance

– The ancient Zambezi

The Zambezi Society BULLETIN - December 2016


The Zambezi Society Bulletin for December 2016 is now out. Please read it HERE



•  The Gift of Giving – Donate to protect Zambezi elephants

•  Anti-poaching:  We adopt a co-ordinating role

•  Wildlife Conservation Network Expo – San Francisco, Oct 2016

•  Changes at ZimParks

•  Key to protecting Zambezi Wildlife and Habitat – working together

•  Parks rangers undergo firearms training

•  Anti-poaching awareness project inspires urban & rural kids

•  New anti-poaching vehicles & road clearance in Mana Pools

•  Ranger deployment working well

•  Tourism in Mana Pools – Please follow the Codes of Conduct

•  Nkupe Camp tourism concession re-appears and raises concerns

•  Fieldwork and assistance to ZimParks in Matusadona

•  Caught in the act!

The Zambezi Society BULLETIN – August 2016


The Zambezi Society Bulletin for August 2016 is now out. Please read it HERE.

It is also available for download in PDF format. You can download this Bulletin here: – The Zambezi Society Bulletin August 2016

Zamsoc-vehicle Chisi-girls


  • Elephant Poaching – Creating awareness of the crisis 
  • Our focus: Anti-poaching strategies & priorities for funding
  • Flying for Wildlife – providing valuable “eyes in the sky”
  • Thanks to anti-poaching collaborating partners
  • Zamsoc donates new anti-poaching vehicle for Mana Pools
  • Volunteer Report: Mana southern boundary
  • Mana Pools anti-poaching base nears completion
  • A Plea to Mana Pools Visitors:  Please honour the Code of Conduct
  • Mana Pools Predator Survey 2015 – read the report
  • Chisipite Junior School – 30 years of fund-raising for Matusadona
  • Surveying predators in Matusadona
  • Success and new challenges in the Matusadona

The Zambezi Society BULLETIN - April 2016


The Bulletin for April 2016 is now out. Please read it HERE.

It is also available for download in PDF format. You can download this Bulletin here: –The Zambezi Society Bulletin April 2016





The findings of the Great Elephant Census which surveyed all major elephant populations in Africa in 2014, revealed a 75% decline in the numbers of elephants in the Sebungwe Area of the Zambezi Valley south of Lake Kariba since 2001 (from 14,000 to 3,500), and a 40% decrease in the middle Zambezi Valley complex, including Mana Pools (from 18,000 to 11,500).    (See The Zambezi Society’s news item Zambezi Valley Elephants – horrific decline in numbers  – 20 August 2015)

Since then, the Zimbabwe’ Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has been working with stakeholders to develop an urgent 5-year National Elephant Plan for Zimbabwe and to map out (via a series of regional workshops) urgent anti-poaching strategies for the areas where elephants are considered to  be most vulnerable.

These deliberations have resulted in the publication of three important reports/plans of action, which are now available for download at the following links:-


Summary Report on a collaborative workshop held by ZPWMA to develop an anti-poaching strategy for Mana Pools National Park and neighbouring Safari Areas held 30 March–2 April 2015, Chirundu Safari Lodge,  Zambezi River.  (Parks & Wildlife Management Authority – 2015)



Proceedings of the Sebungwe Elephant Management Plan Workshop  held on 19-22 May 2015 at Musango Safari Camp, Kariba.  (Parks & Wildlife Management Authority – 2015)



zim-ele-management-plan-cover  Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan 2015 – 2020    (Parks & Wildlife Management Authority – 2015)



Statement from The Zambezi Society
14th March 2016

Richard Maasdorp and Gary Layard of The Zambezi Society today visited the scene of the tragic incident which took place in Mana Pools National Park on Sunday 13th March and resulted in the deaths of Claudio Chiarelli and his son Max Chiarelli.

The two deceased died instantly when caught in the mistaken fire of a National Parks patrol of three rangers at about 3.30p.m. yesterday afternoon – Sunday 13th March.

Claudio and Max, together with Francesco Marconati were providing voluntary support to deploy two National Parks anti-poaching patrols consisting of 6 rangers with the intention of uplifting the three rangers who were in the field following fresh spoor of poachers.

The group had parked their vehicle on the side of the road in the middle section of the Mana Pools National Park to await the arrival of the three Park rangers who had been tracking poachers in dense bush since 9.00a.m. that morning.

The intention was to meet at the road and hand over three fresh rangers to continue the follow-up.

Claudio and Max Chiarelli with Francesco Marconati took the opportunity to open the bonnet of their vehicle to inspect the engine.  Meanwhile, the 6 Park rangers they were transporting had dismounted from the vehicle and arranged themselves next to it while waiting for their three colleagues to arrive.

Unbeknown to them, the vehicle had been parked within just 15 metres of where the poachers’ tracks had crossed the road.

Meanwhile, the anti-poaching patrol in hot pursuit, heard voices, crouched down, and slowly moved forward through the thick undergrowth.

Through a gap in the bushes, they saw part of a blue shirt.  They assumed this was a poacher and let off a burst of gunfire.

Tragically, both Claudio and Max were killed instantly.

As the anti-poaching patrol rangers were crouched, they were unable to see the road at all.

Fortunately, the 6 rangers awaiting deployment did not return fire.

Richard Maasdorp, Strategic Director of The Zambezi Society stated:  “Today (Monday 14th March 2016), we witnessed a thorough on-site investigation by the Zimbabwe Police CID and members of the National Parks Investigations Branch and Senior Management.

The Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and other state organs now, more than ever, need support and resources to contain their battle against wildlife poaching.

We, the Zambezi Society, extend our very deepest sympathy to Mrs Chiarelli and her daughter and the family on this terrible tragedy.  We posthumously thank Claudio and Max Chiarelli, as a father and son combination, for the years of dedication that they have shown in support of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe.  This tragedy is deeply regretted.”

E-mail us at
Note:  Richard Maasdorp is currently out of mobile phone range in Mana Pools, but will be available from Tuesday 15th March on +263 772 419897

The Zambezi Society November 2015 BULLETIN


Please see The Zambezi Society’s final Bulletin of 2015 here:- The Zambezi Society November BULLETIN 2015





MANA POOLS:  The Zambezi Society is collaborating with “Flying for Wildlife” to conduct an urgent and important overfly and aerial surveillance operation over Mana Pools over a three day period within the dates of 15th November to 30th November 2015.  This is in support of the anti-poaching efforts of Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA).
The Society is appealing to its friends and supporters to urgently assist us with the fuel and manpower costs involved.

FUEL COSTS & TRANSPORT:  The Zambezi Elephant Fund will be assisting with some of the fuel expenses but the costs are high and we still need more.  Donations can be made via the PAYNOW donate button on the Home Page of the Zambezi Society website.  Alternatively if you have access to fuel coupons, these will be readily accepted.   If you are in a position to assist with the urgent transportation of full fuel drums into the Park, we would be glad to hear from you.

ON-THE-GROUND VOLUNTEERS:  We are looking for supporters who would (in their own vehicles and at their own expense) be prepared to travel to Mana Pools, base at Nyamepi Camp and carry fuel, the pilots and a member of National Parks’ staff to the Mana Airstrip over a three day period.  Maximum two volunteers at a time. Volunteers will be required to abide by the terms of the MOU between The Zambezi Society and ZWPMA (which will be made available to them prior to deployment).
If you are able to assist please advise the days that work best for you during the period 15th to 30th November. 

MATUSADONA:  Under a separate initiative. The Zambezi Society and a private pilot will be overflying Matusadona in the near future.    Any support towards the fuel costs for this will be most welcome.

DONATE:   Via the online PAYNOW button on our Home Page at

OR CONTACT (Phone, message or Whatsapp) :  Pete Musto  (Zambezi Society Director of Operations)  +263 772 249434

Zambezi Valley elephants - horrific decline in numbers



While the world’s media focuses its attention on illegal hunting activities in Zimbabwe, centred on Cecil the lion,  The Zambezi Society  wishes to highlight a wildlife crisis of even greater proportion –  the plight of Zimbabwe’s elephants in the Zambezi Valley:-

  • There has been a 75% decline in the numbers of elephants in the Zambezi Valley south of Lake Kariba (Sebungwe area) since 2001 – from 14,000 to 3,500.
  • A 40% decrease has been recorded in the middle Zambezi Valley complex (which includes Mana Pools) – from 18,000 to 11,500.

These statistics derive from a national air survey conducted by experts as part of the Africa-wide Great Elephant Census, which surveyed all major elephant populations in Africa in 2014.

Kenyan-based Save the Elephants recently highlighted a huge escalation in the demand and price of elephant tusks in China since 2002. China’s legal ivory trade, it believes, is acting as a smokescreen for horrific escalation of illegal activities which are driving the unsustainable killing of Africa’s elephants.

A recent census in Tanzania revealed a catastrophic 60% loss of that country’s elephants in just five years (109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014).  Mozambique has lost around 50% in the same period from 20,000 to 10,300.

In Africa (and Zimbabwe is no exception), state wildlife authorities are unable to provide sufficient policing and protection of wildlife areas.  The costs of protection are high, but government funds allocated for the purpose are negligible.  This gap is exploited by corruption.  Rangers on the ground, in general, are highly experienced but poorly paid.

Your support is critically needed to assist with this critical human resource and will strengthen their motivation, resolve and performance.

Says The Zambezi Society:  “We are deeply concerned by these latest elephant figures.  The message for Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley is clear – poaching is rife and we need to do something about it urgently.”

As a follow-up to the Zimbabwe elephant census, two anti-poaching workshops for the Middle Zambezi and the Sebungwe areas took place recently.  The Zambezi Society attended both and now sits on the Task Force steering committees for  each.  The Society has committed itself to work with Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) to act on certain of the prioritised actions resulting from these deliberations.

The Society has a Memorandum of Understanding with ZWPMA and a 30-year-old history of working with the Authority, other NGOs and the private sector to assist in combating anti-poaching in the Zambezi Valley.   Funds channelled via the Zambezi Society are fully accounted for and used in the most effective way possible.

Please help us to strengthen our anti-poaching efforts in the face of this elephant crisis by making a contribution via The Zambezi Society’s secure online payment system  or via the newly-formed, collaborative  Zambezi Elephant Fund  of which the Zambezi Society is a partner.

For more information, contact
The Zambezi Society

Mana Pools Carnivore Survey (July-Sept 2015)


Codes of Conduct for Mana Pools National Park

As a result of reported incidences of inappropriate behaviour on the part of the un-escorted walking public and certain tour operators in Mana Pools National Park, The Zambezi Society has collaborated in developing two comprehensive CODES OF CONDUCT for visitor behaviour in the Park – one for visitors to Mana Pools and one for visitors to Chitake Spring. They are available to download here:

CODE OF CONDUCT for Mana Pools National Park

– CODE OF CONDUCT for Chitake Spring

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority has agreed to the immediate implementation of these two agreed CODES OF CONDUCT. Meanwhile, it has assured the Society that it is putting in place strong measures to ensure that fines are strictly enforced for offenders and non-permit-holders.

Mana code combo pic

Chitake code pic

The Codes were achieved as a collaborative effort between The Zambezi Society, its supporters, members of the visiting public, the Mana Pools tour operators (LZTOA) and the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority itself.

Their implementation follows on from recent controversy over the May 2015 banning of “unguided” public walking in Mana Pools by the ZimParks Authority. The Zambezi Society reacted to the ban by conducting a Survey to gauge public reaction. The Survey attracted over 120 responses, the results showing an overwhelming call for the ban to be revisited, and a strong acceptance that enforceable CODES OF CONDUCT be put in place.

The Zambezi Society then made urgent representations to the ZimParks Authority and on 8th July 2015, “unguided” public walking in Mana Pools was reinstated with conditions.

Visitors are allowed to walk freely again in Mana Pools without a guide, on payment of a daily, per person, permit fee.

All persons found walking without a permit will be fined $100.

For details see: National Parks REINSTATES ‘Unguided’ public walking in Mana Pools.

The two CODES OF CONDUCT are available to the public at entry points to Mana Pools National Park (and are downloadable as PDF files at the links above).

The Zambezi Society urges visitors to Mana Pools to recognise the privilege that has been returned to them and strongly encourage them (and the tour operators) to adhere to the principles listed in these codes at the risk of attracting heavy fines.

National Parks REINSTATES 'unguided' public walking in Mana Pools


The Zambezi Society is pleased to announce that as a result of its representations to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority on behalf of the visiting Public, the Authority has reinstated “unguided” public walking in Mana Pools National Park, with immediate effect.


Here is the statement received on 8th July 2015 from ZimParks:-

“We would like to thank you and your team very much for efforts at engaging the Authority with regards to the above…
  1. The ban on unguided walks has been lifted with immediate effect.
  2. All walking activities will require permits as follows:-
    • $10 per day for Zimbabweans
    • $15 per day for foreigners;
  3. The option of hiring a ranger still remains at the gazetted price;
  4. All persons found walking without a permit will be fined $100;
Kindly note that this is with immediate effect. This position will be reviewed at the end of the year in line with all other conditions.”


The Zambezi Society’s representations were backed by the results of its Public Survey on the “Ban on Public Walking in Mana”.


The survey had a total of 121 responses – a highly representative sample of visitors to Mana Pools. Of this sample:-

  • 55% were from Zimbabwe and 45% were foreign visitors
  • 15% said that unguided walking is bad
  • 78% said that unguided walking is good
  • 52% said they would stop coming to Mana Pools, or would come less frequently as a result of the ban on unguided walking.


The survey results showed an overwhelming call for the ban to be revisited, and a strong acceptance that an enforceable Code of Conduct be put in place.


Prior to the ban, the Zambezi Society had worked with its constituency members, the Lower Zambezi Tour Operators Association (LZTOA) and the ZimParks Authority at Mana Pools station level to develop and agree on two Codes of Conduct – one for Mana Pools National Park and one for Chitake Spring.


The ZimParks Authority has agreed to these Codes of Conduct being implemented. It is putting in place strong measures to ensure that fines are strictly enforced for offenders and non-permit-holders.

In the meantime, The Zambezi Society is reviewing its draft Codes of Conduct and will shortly make them available for download on our website.


The Zambezi Society wishes to thank the ZimParks Authority for taking its representations seriously. We urge visitors to Mana Pools to recognise the privilege that has been returned to them and to respect the guidelines provided by the agreed Codes of Conduct. While making a daily payment for the privilege of “unguided” walking adds an additional financial burden to visitors, it is nonetheless arguable that this requirement should have been in place long ago, and might have served to prevent the unacceptable behaviour of a small minority of visitors in recent years.



2nd June 2015


The ZAMBEZI SOCIETY wishes to approach the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) with a representative case regarding the recent controversial ban on “unguided” walking in Mana Pools National Park.

To this end, we are conducting a quick survey of our supporters and Social Media constituency to ascertain public opinion about the issue.

Please answer the questions below as succinctly as possible.
Note that your responses will be copied directly in The Zambezi Society’s submission to ZimParks.  


1.  Please give us your name and tell us where you live (country).
2. How often do you visit Mana Pools and for how many years have you been visiting?
3.  Will the ban on “unguided” walking in Mana Pools affect you directly?
4.  Do you consider that the ban on “unguided walking in Mana Pools is a good thing or a bad thing? (Give reasons)
5.  With the no “unguided” walking ban in place, will you still visit Mana Pools in future?

Please e-mail your responses BEFORE 12th June 2015 to  

"No Un-guided Walking" in Mana Pools National Park


The Zambezi Society would like to clarify the current situation with regard to the recent controversial “banning” of un-escorted walking in Mana Pools National Park.

Until very recently, one of the unique attributes contributing towards Mana Pools’ reputation as a  global brand was the freedom of visitors to experience the wilderness in a primal way.  The most recent Mana Pools Management Plan states:-  “Mana Pools is probably one of the only National Parks in Africa with dangerous big game that permits unescorted walking.  ….  This is one of the unique experiences of this park and is listed as an exceptional resource.  There have been several fatalities mainly through elephant and buffalo attacks, but considering the numbers of visitors who take part in this activity, the numbers are remarkably low”.

However, the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority has decided, as is their right and responsibility, to immediately revisit the “unescorted walking” aspect of a tourist’s experience in Mana Pools National Park.  They have announced that with immediate effect, “no un-guided tours” will take place in Mana Pools i.e. the public will no longer be able to walk without an accompanying guide.

This comes at a time when The Zambezi Society, in consultation with its public constituency and in collaboration with other stakeholders, including the tour operators and the Parks Authority itself, was in the process of developing a comprehensive Code of Conduct for visitor behaviour in the Park.  This had been initiated, as a result of recent reported incidences of inappropriate behaviour on the part of the un-escorted walking public and certain tour operators, and was to be introduced for the coming safari season.

When the “no unguided tours” decision was announced, The Zambezi Society immediately engaged the Parks Authority management.  We attended stakeholder meetings and wrote submissions to the Authority.

However, at the latest meeting (Thursday 14th May) we were advised that the Parks Authority will maintain its position that walkers at Mana Pools will need to be accompanied by a Professional guide or a Parks ranger.

The principal is clear (walks must be escorted),  but at the same time the Parks Authority advises that the guidelines around walking in the immediate surrounds of exclusive camps, picnic sites, viewing areas, short distances from a vehicle and fishing on the river will be “functional”.

Visitors will be permitted to bring a Professional Guide to be with them during their stay.  (The Zambezi Society is considering opening dialogue with the Professional guides to set up a data base of suitably qualified candidates.   However, this will need careful thought as to how it will sit with the  existing situation where tour operators are required to pay annual licences for operating in the Park.)

Going forward, The Zambezi Society will endeavour to be included in working on the “nuts and bolts” of this new regulation.  We will continue to engage the Parks Authority towards arriving at a special category and criteria for the return of a responsible level of un-escorted walking guided by a comprehensive Code of Conduct.

The Zambezi Society considers that the following key factors warrant consideration and future stakeholder discussion, in order to arrive at a holistically considered set of revised rules and regulations which will form the basis of a Code of Conduct for the benefit of all users – the wildlife being a key stakeholder in this process:

  1. Safety
  2. Wildlife
  3. Parks resources
  4. Tour Operators
  5. Visitor impact
  6. Infrastructure and Logistical Challenges
  7. Considerations

1.   Safety
a.  This may appear counter intuitive but anecdotal evidence would indicate that unescorted walking has led to very few fatalities over the decades. It is likely that driving, construction, mining and manufacturing may be proven to more dangerous pursuits. Most walkers are aware of the risks, many have years of experience with wildlife and most treat wild animals with due respect.  It is possible that at times armed escorts take more risks with wildlife due to the fact they are armed.  In the current circumstances, the Parks Authority is not accountable for any death or fatality of a tourist as it is clear that any walker does so at their own risk.
b.  In the safari season the Mana Pools floodplain is heavily denuded, and visibility, in the main, is excellent.
c.  In the last few years there has been a marked increase in dry-season visitors especially from South Africa. This has led to larger groups walking. There have been accounts of walkers, some of whom are inexperienced, acting arrogantly and with a misplaced overconfidence.  Further the same sub-set of visitors have taken blatant liberties based on their knowledge that the Zimbabwe Parks Authority is under-resourced.
d.  As with many situations in life, when does “the state” step-in and when does it allow adults to determine their own level of exposure to risk.
e.  There appears to be a concern at “National Level” that the Parks Authority needs to be doing more across its Estates to ensure its already high safety record is tightened further. A review from time to time is well worth the time spent. It is also important to review safety in context and be cautious of allowing problems in one Park to lead of over-correction in other Parks. It is probable that climbing Mount Nyangani, in  Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, even as an experienced climber, is more dangerous than an experienced person walking in Mana Pools. It is understood that there will be a perception that a fatality of a foreign tourist will be damaging for tourism. This “National Concern” may also stem from the perceived need (and expense) of other government services being called in to assist when there is an accident. In Mana Pools this is highly unlikely as the Parks Authority there have the skills sets to track and recover a walker.
f.  Certain tour operators need to be held to a Code of Conduct as there have been occasions where operators, under the comfort of a weapon, have induced lions to charge or gone far too close to elephant. This shoddy behaviour sets a poor example to others and can lead these animals to seek revenge on others.
g.  The Park regulations state that all guides need to carry a heavy calibre weapon. An incident with a Park ranger carrying a light calibre weapon may not stand up to the scrutiny of law. If Parks rangers guide a walk, they take on a greater level of responsibility than a tourist allowed to “walk at their own risk.”
h.  Junior and/or inexperienced rangers are likely to be more of a safety liability than an unarmed experienced walker. The later will be inclined to take fewer risks and respect the “safe zone” of each wildlife species.

2.  Wildlife
a.  It is a fact that in recent times certain groups of tourists and tour operators have intruded on wildlife by driving off road and by moving too close on foot. Enforcement by both the Parks Authority and responsible tourists of the proposed new Code of Conduct will go a long way to address this.

3.  Parks Resources
a.  At a recent anti-poaching workshop it was highlighted that Park anti-poaching efforts are being hampered by limitations in terms of rangers, transport and equipment.  The hot spots and routes in and out of the Mana Pools National Park are: the southern boundary, certain river systems into the Park and known pans. To cover these areas effectively more rangers are needed in addition to those on station at present.
b.  The Mana floodplain and Chitake are well covered by tourist activity which acts as a form of anti-poaching deterrent in itself. It would be a great pity to use up a scarce resource (rangers) to oversee “public walking” which has hitherto been an iconic attribute of the Park.
c.  The Tashinga Initiative has recently been given a permit to place one operative (land and water based) within the Park, to assist with deployments and uplifts.  This will mean that rangers who have up till now been confined to camp, can now become mobile.
d.  Parks Authority staff need to be encouraged to fine people who transgress the rules. Taking this action will encourage tourism to comply.

4.  Tour Operators
a.  The Lower Zambezi Tour Operators Association (LZTOA) formed a team to work with The Zambezi Society and the Parks Authority, at station level, to develop a Code of Conduct. This was in recognition of the need to control the few wayward groups of tourists and the occasional operator.  In addition they have agreed to lend the Parks Authority support in reporting breaches of Park rules.
b.  The LZTOA supports unescorted walking for people who are experienced, responsible and who are conservation enthusiasts. They recognise that most people who fall into this group cannot afford to stay at an operator’s camp nor can they afford the hourly rates to use a ranger.

5.  Visitor Impact
a.  For a certain group of visitors the fact that they can walk unescorted is an experience that has a deep positive impact – maybe even spiritual and humbling and provides a meaningful way to engage in nature.
b.  Many are Zimbabweans who show respect for the wild yet they cannot afford to use the services of a ranger or professional guide.  There is also the feeling that it is safer to walk without a weapon as one is more attentive and fewer risks are taken.
c.  There is a growing tourist market around the world for “extreme sports” and travelling to parts of the world where one can engage in nature “on its terms.”  Looking into the future, if Mana Pools retains an element of unescorted walking this could become a major income generator.
d.  There are a growing number of people who want to travel and get away from the controls and prescriptions of the “Nanny States” that the Western countries have become.
e.  Research seems to indicate that an “incident” such as a hippo bumping a boat, someone dying or being injured in e.g. white water rafting, results in an upward surge in bookings for these activities.

6.  Infrastructure and Logistical Challenges
a.  The road, picnic site and viewpoint infrastructure in Mana Pools, at present, does not lend itself to absorbing all the tourist pressure that would result from confining people to vehicles.
b.  One of the outputs of the recent anti-poaching workshop was to re-open some of the internal and escarpment roads. Once this has been done tourists will be able to travel more widely.
c.   For a tourist staying at one of the exclusive camps (New Ndungu, Mucheni), even if the newly-introduced “functional guidelines” permit a certain level of un-escorted walking within a close radius of the camp, picnic site or vehicle,  visitors wanting to walk any distance would have to drive approximately 30 minutes to collect a ranger, drive to the start of the area they wish to walk and then repeat the circuit at the end of the walk. This might be needed twice a day for the duration of their visit.  Vehicular traffic will be considerably increased and Mana Pools will become like any other Park.  This may result in a drop-off in visitor numbers.
d.  How far would visitors with fishing permits be allowed to walk along the river in terms of the “functional guidelines”?
e.  Chitake would be a particular challenge as there is only one road. This road is, rightfully, away from the Spring.  Visitors would be confined to camp. It would be inefficient to deploy station rangers at Chitake just to guide tourists while poachers roam the Chiwuya and the upper reaches of the Chitake Rivers. Rangers stationed at Chitake can cover a circuit of at least 12km a day in anti-poaching duties.

7.  Considerations  
The following are put forward for consideration:-
i.   Visitors who wish to walk sign a special book at reception to confirm they have read and understood the Code of Conduct, and that they intend to walk un-escorted. The Parks Authority will then know how many people intend to do this.
ii.  Visitors who wish to walk purchase a “walking permit” from the Parks Office for a specific charge per day.
iii.  Develop a more detailed Code of Conduct for walkers – for example: no more than 5 in a group, no less than 2 in a group, no one under the age of 16.
iv.  Allow un-escorted walking only for Zimbabwean residents. This way if there is an incident it does not attract the same international attention.
v.  Walkers must have one experienced person in their group. These criteria can be defined.
vi.  Any breaches of conduct will result in immediate  expulsion from the Park and a one year ban.
vii. Allow and encourage members of the LZTOA to report breaches

The  Zambezi Society considers that taking a partial step towards improving the behaviour of visitors through the enforcement of a carefully thought-out Code of Conduct rather than retaining a blanket walking ban will reduce public disappointment in the removal of one of Mana’s iconic attributes and allow spare resources to be dedicated to much-needed anti-poaching efforts.

If you would like to contribute to the on-going discussions between The Zambezi Society, the Parks Authority and various stakeholders, on this important issue, please put your thoughts in writing and e-mail them to us at

April UPDATE - 2015 Tariffs affecting Mana Pools

Please refer to the Zambezi Society Bulletin February 2015 under the heading “Uncontrolled visitor activity…. “ (this is available off our website)-which gives the motivation for developing a code of conduct. We take this opportunity to thank those members of the public who responded to the questionnaires.


At the end of 2014 The Society was invited to the AGM of the Lower Zambezi Tour Operators Association (LZTOA) to discuss the deteriorating behaviour of certain visitors and tour operators. A team was set up to work on a Code of Conduct for the Park. The LZTOA active team members are: Stretch Ferreira, Nick Murray, Andrew Smith, Dick Pitman and Dave MacFarland. We drew on, and customised,  the guidelines which have been developed and adopted at Gona Re Zhou. With input from the LZTOA team members and responsive members of Zambezi Society a final draft has been produced. Progressive liaison took place with National Parks at the appropriate level. This final draft is attached for your information BUT we stress that in the light of the 2015 tariff paper we need to seek clarification before this Code of Conduct can be adopted.

The 2015 tariff paper makes reference to rules pertaining to “tours” stating that “tours must be guided by……”. [We have had sight of the clause but have yet to get a copy] By implication this clause could be intended to mean all unguided walking. Zambezi Society sent a motivated letter to Parks on the 13th April requesting a meeting to seek clarification and if need be moderation to the clause dealing with “tours”. We, together with a representative from LZTOA visited Parks Head Office on the 14th April but the relevant Director/ Manager were not in town. We, together with LZTOA, will endeavour to seek clarification and, if need be, motivate for mutually agreed modifications.

We have yet to arrive at a full understanding of this matter. This delay may, to some degree, have fuelled some unsavoury accusations on social media. At the same time we note from the plethora of balanced comments that “walking” in Mana Pools is one of its iconic attributes.

Mana Pools anti-poaching workshop

The Zambezi Society was privileged to have attended a three-day workshop earlier this month at Chirundu Safari Lodge to discuss anti-poaching needs in Mana Pools National Park. A cross-section of Government entities and other stakeholders brought a wide range of skills and experience to bear on a common goal – to reduce poaching in Mana Pools and by extension in the Lower Zambezi Valley. The outcome, aside from building relationships and networking, was a detailed action plan with clear responsibilities and time lines. Once we have the final document we will share those elements that can appear in the public domain.

Thank you all for your ongoing support and deep collective responsibility towards the wilderness areas of the Zambezi Basin.

The Zambezi Society FEBRUARY 2015 Bulletin

A good day to you all! Please kindly note that our Zambezi Society Bulletin February 2015 is now available to the public. Please click on the link here: – February 2015 Bulletin which will take you to our newsletter and bring you up-to-date with everything. Thank you and enjoy!




Over the past couple of years, the wilderness experience in Mana Pools National Park has undergone a noticeable deterioration, with the increasing abuse of this unique Park by unsanctioned, uncontrolled human activities.   Wild animals and the Park’s fragile ecosystems are suffering from the impacts of human behaviour.


It has been noted that the perpetrators of the abuse are a relatively small percentage of the local and foreign visiting public as well as some tour operators.  It would be a travesty if, as custodians alongside Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), we allow the situation to deteriorate. This would inevitably result in draconian restrictions being imposed on tourism, thus reducing the area to a “typical game park” as opposed to a singularly unique environment with global significance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Zambezi Society has met with tour operators and we are busy working on a collaborative set of recommendations to present to National Parks to use as guidelines for “self enforcement”.  We would appreciate feedback from members of the visiting public who are familiar with Mana Pools.

We intend to:-

1.           Reconstitute the available Codes of Conduct and enhance deficient areas of concern

2.            Develop a document for discussions between Tour Operators, The Zambezi Society and National Parks

3.            Develop a protocol of binding principles for tour operators which could then be used as a benchmark for “fair and ethical behaviour”

4.            Develop a protocol of binding principles for all users of Mana Pools National Park

5.            Develop a reporting and monitoring protocol, with agreements on “self regulation”.

6.            Consider the resuscitation of the “Honorary Warden” concept

The Zambezi Society is committed to this process, and as a follow-through would arrange printing, and appropriate distribution, of all the relevant materials.

Please take a few minutes to answer all or some of the following questions/observations.

1.         Please give us your name and e-mail contact address.

2.         When did you last visit the Park?

3.         How frequently do you visit the Park?

4.         Have you observed:-

  • Flagrant disregard of the National Park rules including, but not limited to, off road driving, vehicular encroachment of animal space, the inappropriate use of spotlights, music and rowdiness in the campsites etc?   (Add any details).
  • Inappropriate behaviour by visitors or operators with wildlife observation, photography of dens etc?   (Add details)
  • Disregard of exclusive camps and tour operator camps’ right to privacy?   (Add any details.)
  • Private armed escorts for individual groups privately booked (i.e. tour operators operating without official licensing)  (Add details)

5.         Have you experienced:-

  • The impact of ration hunting by ZPWMA?  (Add details)

6.         Do you have any comments on the efficiency (or otherwise) of Park staff

7.         What is your stand on adding additional public and/or operator campsites and the impact this would have on animal access to the river?

We suggest that you copy the above questions into an e-mail, add your replies, title the e-mail MANA CONSULTATION RESPONSE and send to The Zambezi Society at

Thank you for your participation in this valuable exercise, we greatly appreciate it!




Chitake Springs, near the southern boundary of Mana Pools National Park, has undergone a noticeable deterioration, particularly with regard to the thoughtless and intrusive impact of human behaviour.  The Spring is a fragile ecosystem and the animals are hostage to the precious water from the Spring.  Human intrusion should be kept to a minimum in such an environment.


The Zambezi Society does not wish the situation at Chitake to deteriorate further.  We have met with tour operators and are busy working on a collaborative set of recommendations to present to National Parks to use as guidelines for “self enforcement”.  We would appreciate feedback from members of the visiting public who are familiar with Mana Pools and Chitake in particular.

We intend to:-

1.           Reconstitute the available Codes of Conduct and enhance deficient areas of concern

2.            Develop a document for discussions between Tour Operators, The Zambezi Society and National Parks

3.            Develop a protocol of binding principles for tour operators which could then be used as a benchmark for “fair and ethical behaviour”

4.            Develop a protocol of binding principles for all users of Mana Pools National Park

5.            Develop a reporting and monitoring protocol, with agreements on “self regulation”.

6.            Consider the resuscitation of the “Honorary Warden” concept

The Zambezi Society is committed to this process, and as a follow-through would arrange printing, and appropriate distribution, of all the relevant materials.

Please can you comment on the following:

1.            Please give us your name and e-mail contact address.

2.            When did you last visit the Park/Chitake?

3.            How often do you visit the Park/Chitake

4.            Parks have put a road which they use to deploy scouts into the base of the escarpment. This road runs very adjacent to the Eastern rim of the Spring and is now being used by visitors for game viewing. This road cuts directly across the main game access paths and is proving extremely disruptive.   We believe this road should either be moved or closed.

5.            Driving along the river bed happens from time to time. This is strictly forbidden and we, as users of the Spring, should report any breach of this and ensure that Parks fine the perpetrators.

6.            Animals should be given right of way and when drinking, and at all times should not be disturbed.   It has been reported that visitors and certain tour operators, in pursuit of photographs cause animals to flee before they have been able to quench their thirst. We need to demand that human visitors and operators respect wildlife.

7.            Certain tour operators with their clients encroach too close to lion in pursuit of dramatic photographs. This may be one of the causes of some reports of brazen lion activity.  This should be reported.

8.            Noise, music and use of non-tempered spotlights should be banned.

9.            Ash from campsites should be buried, rubbish removed and faeces buried.

10.          The number of visitors per campsite should be restricted to a maximum of 8.

11.          Chitake is essentially a “walking” and stationary viewing location. Driving is discouraged and off-road driving is a serious offence. National Parks and the Zambezi Society should ensure that the Spring is marketed as such. Foreign tourists are often surprised that they cannot drive and hence misbehave, causing disruption and disturbance to wildlife and the environment.

We suggest that you copy the above questions into an e-mail, add your replies, title the e-mail CHITAKE CONSULTATION RESPONSE and send to The Zambezi Society at

Thank you for your participation in this valuable exercise, we greatly appreciate it!


We ask you to please sign the Zambezi Society petition against open-cast copper mining in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park opposite the Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site. You can find the petition HERE



We need to stop this outrageous project!  The Zambian environmental authorities are against it.  But their politicians have over-ruled their advice.

The project ignores important international conservation protocols.  We cannot afford to allow a precedent to be set in the region.


The Zambezi Society mourns the passing of one of Southern Africa’s greatest conservationists, Dr Ian Player

Dr Ian Player, who died on 30th November aged 87, was a true inspiration and role-model for us all in Southern African conservation, especially those of us involved in wilderness conservation and the efforts to save our highly endangered rhinos.


Our Society participated in two international Wilderness Congresses – in South Africa and in Alaska and we developed lasting partnerships with the WILD Foundation and the Wilderness Action Group – both organisations founded on Dr Player’s extraordinary dedication to the wildernesses of Southern Africa.

In the 1960s there was an estimated 650 white rhinos in Africa; by 2010 the population numbered 18 800. The very man initiated and led an operation (Operation Rhino) along with his right-hand man, friend and brother, Magquba Ntombela, that helped save this iconic animal from extinction. It is because of Dr Ian Player that there are still rhinos around for us to save. Let us not let him down!


It is extremely sad that such a tower of strength and purpose has left our conservation community.  But there is consolation in the fact that his inspiring example and extraordinary legacy remain with us as a guiding light for those who come next.


Please share this PRESS RELEASE widely!

Representatives of Zimbabwean civil society have expressed support for their counterparts in Zambia who are opposing the Kangaluwi open-pit copper mining project (and associated road construction) slated for the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. This lies across the Zambezi River from Mana Pools National Park, the Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site and the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve) (see image below).

They are calling on the Zimbabwean Minister of the Environment to engage with his counterpart in Zambia to encourage him to adhere to international law regarding Protected Areas and put a final stop to the controversial proposal.

Zambia’s Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), the Zambian Ministry of Tourism, traditional leaders, communities, stakeholders and independent experts rejected the project. But in January 2014, Zambia’s then Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection over-ruled this objection and allowed the project to go ahead. A court challenge was subsequently mounted by the Zambia Community Natural Resources Management Forum (ZCBNRM), putting the project on hold.

The Zambian Court is due to meet for a hearing on the subject this Monday ( 17th November), to decide if the mining company should be allowed to go ahead anyway, despite opposition.

Copper Mining in Lower Zambezi National Park

At the invitation of the Zimbabwe CBNRM Forum and The Zambezi Society, a group of 40 Zimbabwean Civil Society representatives met on 13th November at a briefing workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe and agreed to submit an urgent petition to their Environment Minister.
They support the Zambian opposition to this mine for the following reasons:-

1. The project ignores the customary international law obligation arising from Principle 21/2 of the Stockholm and Rio Declarations respectively, which provides that “States have sovereignty over their natural resources and the responsibility not to cause environmental damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. It also ignores similar requirements in several SADC Protocols (e.g. Mining, Biodiversity, Shared Watercourses, Wildlife Conservation, Forestry etc). The Lower Zambezi National Park lies within the ZIMOZA Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA). Yet there is little evidence of consultation with Zimbabwe or other neighbouring states (e.g. Mozambique) on the potential impacts of this project on them.

2. A dangerous precedent is being set in the region if this mining project is allowed to go ahead.
• The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA or EIS) for the mine has been independently and expertly reviewed and found to be fundamentally flawed. It was also rejected by Zambia’s Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). Going ahead with the project undermines the principles of the EIA process.
• International and national legislation has been ignored (even abused) in this case. The mining company (Australian) appears to be attempting to exploit Africa’s resources by taking advantage of loopholes in national legislation and avoiding the accountability that they would face back home.
• An open-cast copper mine allowed to proceed in a major National Park/TFCA in the region and potentially impacting on a neighbouring UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve opens the door to future mineral exploitation of Protected Areas throughout the region.

3. Apart from impacts within the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, this proposed mine would bring high, long-term risks to the health and well-being of communities, wildlife and environment in Zimbabwe (and Mozambique)
• The scenic, wilderness values of the Zambezi Valley (which have been the base of 50+ years of tourism development in this area on both sides of the river) would be reduced by visual and sound impacts from the mine and associated road infrastructure, spoiling the tourism experience.
• Pollution of ground and surface water by the mine could result in run-off into the Zambezi River, to the detriment of areas and populations downstream, including Zimbabwe’s World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve and Lake Cabora Bassa.
• An increased human population into the area from mine and road development will increase human-wildlife conflict situations. Stressed animals are not confined by international boundaries.
• More people in the area will increase wildlife poaching/snaring which is already a cross-boundary problem.
• The position of the mine will block the movement of animals such as wild dog and elephant along the corridor between the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa National Parks, forcing them into settled lands (increased conflict) or into Zimbabwe or Mozambique.
• All these above impacts would prejudice the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve status that Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley areas currently enjoy, leading to a loss of almost 50 years of investment towards their ecological integrity. It would also destroy any chance of Zambia succeeding in its bid to achieve similar world recognition for the Lower Zambezi National Park.
• The envisaged life span of the project is about one decade, so the envisaged benefits to the Zambian people are short lived. However, the likely environmental damage to the whole trans-frontier area would be long lasting. This is economically and developmentally irresponsible for the region.


The trade and use of lion bones and other body parts across Africa


WildCRU and TRAFFIC recently completed an assessment of the South African trade in African Lion bones and other body parts after concerns were raised that derivatives from wild lions were being sold into Traditional Asian Medicine markets, especially as a substitute for tiger. The trade in lion derivatives in the rest of Africa has not been similarly documented. Hence, we are now undertaking a study of the evidence relating to the trade in lion body parts, and especially the source of parts in lion range states within the rest of Africa and, where possible, to quantify the amount of lion material that is available for sale on either local or international markets.

Invitation to Participate:
The questionnaire should take less than 15 minutes to complete and can be completed in English, French and Portuguese. To read more about the survey and to start the questionnaire, please visit the following links:

If you cannot complete an online version, please email us and we will send you a pdf.

For any queries, please email

Thank you for participating in our survey. Your feedback is important.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for Matusadona Wildlife Survey: 8-13 AUGUST!

Matusadona-Volunteers1 Matusadona-Volunteers2

Friends of the Zambezi Society may remember the volunteer  wildlife surveys that the Society successfully organised at in 2007 and 2008 (see pictures) in the Matusadona National Park in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority .

We are planning another such event over the Heroes Day weekend in August 2014, in order to survey for evidence of wildlife and the illicit removal of wildlife in the Matusadona National Park.

The dates are Friday 8th August to Wednesday 13 August 2013.

We are looking for 7 volunteer teams to assist in this exercise. Each team needs at least 2 to 3 people who are fit, can map read and use a GPS, are fully self contained to camp and walk in the bush for 4 days and have 4 wheel drive transport. Each team will be accompanied by an armed National Parks officer.

This is an important exercise, but also a chance to have a real wilderness experience while contributing some skills and support to the Matusadona National Park.

If you are interested, please can you communicate urgently with Frances Morris or Pete Musto as follows:-

Frances Morris  +263 772 308172 

Pete Musto +263 772 249434

Matusadona Anti-Poaching: ZAMSOC's role


The Zambezi Society considers poaching of fish and wildlife resources to be a MAJOR challenge in the Matusadona National Park, and we will continue to channel all possible support to the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority in addressing it.

We are also collaborating with the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (MAPP) and The Tashinga Initiative (TTI) to streamine the input of scarce resources towards this protection.

In March this year, the Parks and Wildlife Authority hosted a Matusadona Stakeholders Workshop which brought together MAPP, TTI, The Zambezi Society, Rhino Safari Camp (a local tour operation) and CAMPFIRE (Community natural resource management project). This set a focus for collaborative anti-poaching activities in the Matusadona National Park for the next year.

In April, with funds raised by Chisipite Junior School, The Balmain Trust, and other sources, the Society purchased this good-condition second-hand Landcruiser (pictured here) and has deployed it within the Park on loan to MAPP to assist with on-the-ground anti-poaching activities.   Meanwhile, Society personnel, working with MAPP and the Parks Authority in the field, have deployed a number of camera traps at strategic points around the Park in order to capture evidence of wildlife and human movement (see below).


Over the past two months, the anti-poaching efforts in the Matusadona have born fruit, with the arrest of a number of Zambian fish poachers and land-based elephant poachers.  We wish to congratulate MAPP, TTI, the Parks Authority and all concerned and thank them for their commitment to a task that is both dangerous and high-risk.

We would also like to thank the following for their continuing assistance:-

SAVE (Australia) – for providing camera traps (currently in use by MAPP), vehicles and financial support

REDAN Petroleum – for providing a continuous supply of fuel for our operations

KW Blasting – for providing the time and services of their mechanic, who recently spent a second week at Tashinga (Matusadona Parks HQ) repairing and servicing Parks and other stakeholder vehicles

Zimbabwe's new RAMSAR Wetlands Sites:
Information factsheets produced


Last year, seven important wetland sites in Zimbabwe were newly added to the RAMSAR Convention’s List of Wetlands of International Importance.  The seven are :-

  • Victoria Falls National Park,
  • Mana Pools National Park,
  • Monavale Wetland,
  • Lakes Chivero and Manyame,
  • Driefontein Grasslands,
  • Chinhoyi Caves, and
  • Cleveland Dam.

Accession to the RAMSAR List is recognised by conservation organisations and governments worldwide as an important step in helping to protect these vulnerable wetland areas into the future.

Ramsar Mana pools factsheet thumbnail

Another important step is education:  To this end, a series of information factsheets for each of these important sites has been produced by a committee of public and private stakeholders, which includes The Zambezi Society.

The Factsheet about the Mana Pools RAMSAR site was prepared by the Zambezi Society, and we thank our Education Officer, Leslee Maasdorp, for her hard work in completing this.

The Factsheet about the Mana Pools RAMSAR site is now available for DOWNLOAD HERE


In the meantime, the Zambezi Society, through the National Wetlands Committee, is preparing a proposal to the RAMSAR secretariat’s Small Grants Fund for assistance with gather information about the biodiversity of two important river systems in Mana Pools National Park – the Ruckomechi and Chitake rivers – and identifying threats (such as mining and wildlife poaching) faced by these important watersources.

Chitake Spring, Mana Pools:
Guidelines for respecting this wonderful wilderness


The extraordinary natural spring on the Chitake River in the southern part of Mana Pools National Park, near the Zambezi escarpment mountains, is a life-giving source of water for hundreds of wild animals during the driest months of the year (see picture above left – courtesy of Sunpath Safaris).

The small “exclusive” National Parks campsites at Chitake are popular with tour operators and self-drive visitors.  However, since this area is exremely confined and remote and one of the truly wild places of the Park, it is important for visitors to be educated so that their behaviour and presence does not put anyone in danger, annoy other visitors or (most importantly) impinge on the wildlife and wilderness qualities of this wonderful place.

Sadly, there are all too often reports of visitor abuse at Chitake.

  • Rubbish, toilet paper and campfire ash is left in the open, unburied (above right);
  • illegal, off-road driving (especially in the riverbed in the vicinity of the spring itself) is evident from tell-tale vehicle tyre-tracks (above centre);
  • officially designated campsites are ignored by visitors who site themselves in areas which are dangerous and/or intrusive to wildlife accessing the spring.

Chitaka-Guidelines-leaflet-In an effort to educate visitors about the National Parks regulations for this area, and to protect Chitake’s unique wilderness values, the group “Friends of Chitake”, through The Zambezi Society has created a list of Guidelines for Visitors in the form of a small A5 leaflet (see left).

A copy of this leaflet can be found HERE (opens in a new window).  

We encourage readers to share these Guidelines widely via e-mail and Social Media.

Anyone who is interested in visiting Chitake Spring (or any wilderness area, for that matter) should be made aware of these regulations, and should also read the Zambezi Society’s RESPECT THE WILD Code Of Conduct for Visitors to Wild Areas, which can be found on our website on our Publications Page or on Wild

More wildlife outreach for rural schools


This year, six new rural primary schools in remote areas have received illustrated “Endangered Wildlife” information files and other educational
materials produced by The Zambezi Society’s Education Officer, Mrs Leslee Maasdorp (pictured above left with one of the files).

Resupplies of these informative, illustrated teaching aids have also been provided to several schools which had previously received them, but have requested more.

Leslee is also delighted to report that that Nyamakati Primary School which is a large school of around 1500 pupils and lies to the south of the Zambezi valley wildlife areas has recently joined the Society’s Wildlife Outreach Programme. The school has an enthusastic staff member who runs an active Environmental Club.

Meanwhile, primary school pupils at several National Parks stations in the Zambezi Valley continue to benefit once a year from a week’s sponsored attendance at the RIFA Wilderness Educational Camp in Chirundu, where Leslee Maasdorp provides them with wildlife awareness lessons and wonderful practical experiences in the field (pictured above right).

Zimbabwe's elephant survey begins in the Zambezi Valley


We reported in a previous Bulletin on a planned 2014 survey of elephants in thirteen African countries, co-ordinated by Botswana-based organisation Elephants Without Borders and funded by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft.

Known as the Great Elephant Census, this project aims to calculate how many African elephants actually remain, where they are found, what threats they face and whether their total population numbers are in fact increasing or decreasing.

The good news is that the work on surveying Zimbabwe’s elephant population has already begun in the Zambezi Valley, as a joint initiative with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

We hope to report more on this important Census in the future.

The Current Demand for Rhino Horn: Two Important Points:



Demand-for-rhino-hornRecent research conducted by TRAFFIC, (the international wildlife trade monitoring network) has been neatly summarised in a useful reference workbook for tour guides, teachers and the general public, produced in Australia by Dr Lynn Johnson for the Breaking the Brand project.  This is aimed at getting to the bottom of the illegal trade in rhino horn and correcting some of the mis-perceptions that are clouding our decisions as to how to combat it.   Here are some extracts from it:-

“Demand for rhino horn began to increase rapidly from 2008.   Outlined in this workbook is the background to what is driving the current rhino poaching crisis. We hope that this gives you the information to help inform tourists and your community about where the majority of the demand is coming from.  Only through knowing the real and full picture can we engage people to challenge the current users to stop buying rhino horn. As long as old myths persist, we will struggle to get the necessary behaviour change to secure the survival of rhinos in the wild.

So who are the current users of rhino horn and where do they come from?

Historically, China has been a key market for rhino horn. But research by organisations such as TRAFFIC show that the main customers for rhino horn, driving the current poaching crisis, live in Vietnam.

Both China and Vietnam have experienced strong economic growth in the last 2 decades and the number of wealthy people is continuously increasing.

  • China experienced continuous and rapid economic growth since around 1993
  • Vietnam experienced continuous economic growth, which has accelerated since 2003.

Undoubtedly, some of the rhinos killed in Africa and Asia will go to the Chinese medicine trade and efforts need to continue to bring this to an end. However, this is likely to be a small percentage of the rhinos being poached.  We need to consider that even though wealth in China started to grow steeply from 1993, there was no evidence that this affected the rhino poaching numbers, at least in South Africa, for 15 years.

So this indicates that the recent spike in demand for rhino horn is not strongly associated with use in traditional Chinese medicine. Often people feel that they can’t challenge something so old and entrenched as medicinal practices going back many hundreds of years. So it is useful to know that what is driving the current demand is a new fashion in a young population –  70% of people in Vietnam are under the age of 35 years.   From a brand breaking and demand reduction perspective it is much better that the spike in rhino horn demand is a new trend/fad – this makes it easier to stop. This is the case for users in Vietnam.

Current measures to save the rhino are underway throughout the protection – supply – demand chain.   We would recommend additional focus on changing the purchasing behaviour of the primary users of rhino horn to reduce demand and save rhinos from extinction in the wild.

Given this, it is important to know the primary users driving the current poaching levels:

  1. They live in Vietnam, mainly in the wealthy suburbs of Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City
  2. They are businessmen and affluent mothers (probably the wives of the businessmen)   (Wealthy businessmen give rhino horn as a gift to negotiate business deals or to gain favours, or they grind it into water to use as detox drink at the end of a night of socialising with peers.  It is a status symbol, they know that there is no health benefit.   Affluent mothers give it to children as a health supplement /medication and also buy it for aging /sick parents.)
  3. The value of rhino horn is mainly symbolic and a new fashion; it is not entrenched in ancient culture.
  4. 70% of the Vietnamese population is under the age of 35 years
  5. There are only about 20,000 users of genuine rhino: a. 5,000 – 10,000 businessmen (who use the largest amount) and b. Their wives who are likely to be buying a mixture of genuine and fake rhino horn for their children and aging parents
  6. 90% of all rhino horn sold in Vietnam is fake, e.g. buffalo horn from China. Not being able to distinguish real rhino horn from fake is likely to be helping the rhino’s survival
  7. The users only have 2 motivations to stop: a. Negative impact on their personal status  b. Negative impact on their personal health and health of family and associates

The users have no or very little empathy with the animal. Campaigns in the form of an appeal to ‘protect a species’ will, in the main, be ignored by the users of rhino horn.

Importantly, there is no pressure on the users in Vietnam to stop buying rhino horn if China is constantly put forward as the driver of rhino poaching. This allows the Vietnamese users of rhino horn to ‘fly under the radar’. As a result they receive minimal pressure to change their buying habits.

For more information, see

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