Wilderness Zambezi and Panthera have reaffirmed their funding of the operating costs of the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU) in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. This will ensure that the team, which includes Hwange National Park rangers, is able to maintain its crucial year-round presence within the park – vital in the fight against poaching.
Wilderness has been involved in supporting SAPU logistically since 2012, under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). In December 2019, the Wilderness Group Impact Fund allocated additional resources to build new accommodation as a base for the team on its private wilderness area. However, during COVID-19, these funds were repurposed to ensure the Scorpions were able to continue their vital work during this difficult time, and additional funding was granted to the team through the Wilderness Wildlife Trust.
“As the largest national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange is a significant tourism asset to the country and we do as much as we can to help preserve it, ensuring that we always have eyes on the ground to curb poaching in the area”, noted Innocent Mabika, Wilderness Zambezi Ecologist & Environmental Officer.
Increasing their range significantly in 2022, the Scorpion team has already covered more than 1,341 km on 136 foot patrols, while a further 15 vehicle patrols covered more than 758 km. The team also removed a total of five snares, and arrested a group of four buffalo poachers at the beginning of the year. To date, SAPU has removed 2,400 snares during 1,548 patrols and provides essential wildlife protection in the south-eastern section of Hwange. Daily patrols are conducted along the boundaries where subsistence poaching, as well as poaching for game meat, is common.
The information captured is logged with the assistance of Wilderness’ partners, ZimParks and Panthera, who use the data to detect poaching patterns and trends.
Given Hwange’s vast size, it is a constant challenge to cover this large area during patrols; however, the unit’s 44% increase in foot patrols and 63% in vehicle patrols last year, has had a notable impact on the wildlife population and diversity of species. Naturally, there is much work to be done to ensure that this park is able to positively contribute to the country’s economy.
“We will continue to work closely with SAPU, providing guidance, expertise and resources for the protection of the precious fauna and flora of Hwange, and we trust our guests will join us in our efforts to help sustain this important conservation work”, Innocent concluded.
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