Hwange National Park, situated in the north western corner of Zimbabwe, is an immense wilderness area that lies between the Kalahari Sands of Botswana and the savannah woodlands and Teak forests of Zimbabwe. This area is home to a hugely rich variety of wildlife including an estimated 45 000 elephants and Africa’s Big Five – Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhinoceros and Elephant.
The Park has very little natural surface water during the dry, winter months of the year from April to November, and as a result of human encroachment, the wildlife has been cut off from access to perennial rivers. Therefore, water has to be pumped from underground sources to surface pans so that the wildlife can drink. This involves raising funds to drill sufficient boreholes and equip them with solar powered pumps which are both eco-friendly and cost effective. FOH is also responsible for all the necessary maintenance.
Friends of Hwange Trust (FOH) was formed on the back of the extreme drought of 2005 that severely affected Hwange National Park. The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe, plagued by lack of funding and a decrease in tourist arrivals, did not have the funds to keep enough borehole pumps going. As a result, only a handful of waterholes had water and countless animals died. Friends of Hwange has worked since then to ensure adequate water supplies for the wildlife.
More recently, FOH has expanded its work to include anti-poaching and animal rescue operations, clearance of firebreaks, maintenance of access roads, adequate medical support for the Park’s staff and their families, necessary research, and conservation of highly endangered avian species and the habitat that supports them.
FOH Mission Statement
- to develop and maintain water resources in Hwange National Park for the benefit of its wildlife, in collaboration with the Authorities responsible for the Park
- to develop and maintain opportunities for the conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources in the Park so that it will be enjoyed by the generations to come
- to assist in the attainment of national objectives for wildlife conservation, with particular reference to Hwange National Park
Find out more at friendsofhwange.com
Empowers Africa has partnered with Friends of Hwange Trust in order to provide a cost-effective solution to fundraising in the United States by acting as their fiscal sponsor. Any donations made here will be granted to Friends of Hwange Trust.
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Friends of Hwange Trust Campaigns
Water for Wildlife in Hwange
Hwange National Park is famed for its abundance of wildlife, especially its elephants. There is no natural surface water available during the dry season and without water animals won’t survive. Friends of Hwange establishes boreholes which tap into bountiful underground water. The boreholes are equipped with solar powered pumps to supply water to surface pans. During the dry season, as animal pressure around the water increases, constant, vigilant upkeep of pans is vital. Occasionally it even becomes necessary to rescue animals that become trapped in sticky mud.
Also important is protection of the natural vegetation – the food source for game. A network of fireguards throughout the park covers vast distances over very rough terrain. Upkeep of these firebreaks is undertaken annually, and access roads are graded and repaired.
Friends of Hwange is nonprofit and is totally reliant on donor funding. All contributions are guaranteed to make a difference
Anti-poaching in Hwange
Due to the continuing socio-economic decline in Zimbabwe, poaching for bushmeat has escalated. Ranger and scout patrols to locate incidents of poaching, then follow up to bring the culprits to book, are vital. The abrupt collapse of the tourism economy due to Covid-19 has meant reduced funding for conservation, fewer patrols and under-equipped rangers within the Park. A significant amount of poaching also occurs immediately outside the Park’s boundaries because of human encroachment into the buffer zones. These areas act as transit routes to and from communal areas where known paths and poacher access routes exist. Regular snare patrols in these poaching hot spots are essential.
Ranger’s wages are generally low, so provision of monthly food packs does much to raise morale. This supply of rations has become a lifeline in supporting not only the rangers but also their families.
Animal Rescue in Hwange
A fast-increasing human population coupled with high poverty levels means snaring is becoming an increasingly bigger threat to our wildlife populations. Snares are simple but lethal devices usually made from high-tensile wire shaped into a loop and anchored down and placed in areas of high animal activity with the sole purpose of killing wildlife. Whilst they are mostly used to catch (and kill) bushmeat, often as a means of sustenance for rural communities, their impact is huge. These heinous devices are totally indiscriminate in the slow, agonizing death sentences they bring. Intervention by a rescue team is often a creature’s only chance at survival.
Getting close enough to immobilize a distressed, ferocious animal is often the first challenge. Once down and out, the deadly wire is cut free and any wounds cleaned and treated before an antidote is delivered. Then the darting team beats a hasty retreat while keeping a watchful eye on the affected animal until it gains consciousness and is once more awake and alert. In this way creatures are afforded a second chance to live out their lives in the wild.
Saving African Vultures
Misunderstood and often maligned, these highly social birds are Nature’s Clean-up Crew. As scavengers Vultures arguably perform some of the most important ecosystem services of all birds. By clearing away rotting carcasses and other organic waste in the environment, and by doing this much faster than any mammalian scavenger species, vultures not only prevent outbreaks of bacterial diseases such as anthrax, but also the spread of viral diseases such as rabies. In countries where lack of funds, basic sanitation services, appropriate personnel and infrastructure prevent many citizens from having access to proper medical and veterinary care, the most cost-effective solution could be to look after the birds that provide the most basic of clean-up services, free of charge.
The bad news is that African Vultures face a multitude of threats to their existence and are in deep trouble, with most species officially classified as critically endangered. The good news is that we are working with Birdlife Zimbabwe to help safeguard the future of these amazing birds.
Please help us to save them.
Birds Conservation in Zimbabwe
Why are birds important?
Because they are widespread and respond quickly to changes in the environment, birds are the messengers that tell us about the health of the planet They are our early-warning system for pressing concerns such as climate change.
Birds play an essential role in the functioning of the world’s ecosystems in a way that directly impacts human health, economy and food production. They control pests by consuming tons of insects each year. They pollinate the plants we use for food and medicine. Vultures are nature’s clean-up crew – both the speed of their arrival and their thoroughness in cleaning up rotting carcasses makes them valuable. Birds spread seeds, through their droppings and in so doing bring plants back to ecosystems that have been destroyed. They are capable of transforming entire landscapes. Habitats like forests, marshes and grasslands affect people and wildlife across the planet, store carbon, keep the climate stable, oxygenate the air and transform pollutants into nutrients. Birds pay a key role in maintaining the delicate balance between plant and herbivore, predator and prey.
There are many birds that need our help to ensure the survival of the species including Ground Hornbills, various Raptors and Eagles, Cranes, Blue Swallows, Vultures and more. We need to make sure these avian marvels survive and thrive.
Tracking Elephant Movement
The Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) is a vast region situated where the international borders of five countries converge – namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.The KAZA transboundary elephant population is about 200 000 – about 40% of Africa’s total. Research initiatives on elephant in five KAZA countries operate separately but are in contact officially via the – KAZA elephant working group (KEWG). They are currently sharing movement data to keep corridors from closing in some parts of KAZA (eg the Caprivi – now called Zambezi region of Namibia)
But even at the country level elephant research projects employing radio-collars have far too little collaboration on publishing results. Whilst they should still operate with independence, there is need to pool the movement and home range data to maximize the output to benefit the signature species of KAZA.
The six projects in western Zimbabwe using elephant collars need a co-ordinating agency for this. Friends of Hwange is uniquely placed to take this on should the necessary funds become available.
Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation
Solutions to solving human-wildlife conflict benefits affected livestock owners and rural farmers as well as animal populations. Surrounding Hwange, this pertains particularly to human-elephant conflict. A key development in practical mitigation is the agreement of Standard operating Procedures between the Rural District Council and approved Non-Governmental Organizations. The knowledge for this exists but it needs to be put into an agreed operational program.
This would involve the employment of crop damage monitors, data logging training and equipment, training and equipping of ranger reaction teams, vehicle operating costs, costs of community meetings for land use planning, deterrent chilli growing and processing, costs of limited strategic fencing. This project stands to benefit both the people in the communities and the wildlife.
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