On September 30th, IFAW and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) met in Harare to sign a historic conservation partnership for wildlife and people.
Zimbabwe is arguably the third most important country for species richness in Southern Africa and is host to nearly 180 mammal species that include the critically endangered black and near-threatened white rhinoceros, endangered wild dog, the vulnerable brown hyena, cheetah, hippopotamus, lion, and African elephant. Outstandingly, it is host to one of the world’s largest and most viable elephant populations in the wild, estimated to be a 82,092 strong herd (2014 GEC), second only to Botswana.
Throughout its history, Zimbabwe has ascribed great importance to conservation. Close to 30% of the country’s land area is devoted to some form of protected area status ranging from IUCN category national parks, safari areas, community wildlife areas, private conservancies, and forest reserves. The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) manage the majority, while the Forestry Commission is responsible for gazetted forests.
Additionally, Zimbabwe is part of six Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region that include the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA), Great Limpopo, Chimanimani, Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools, Greater Mapungubwe and Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia (ZIMOZA). These TFCAs promote cross-border cooperation in conservation of biodiversity and help bring together established wildlife areas in order to manage them as integrated units across international boundaries.
Cognisant of this mammoth task and national responsibility, ZimParks has progressively explored Conservation Partnerships with third parties to jointly mobilize financial resources and technical expertise to effectively manage their network of protected areas. It is in this context that the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has signed a MoU with ZimParks at a time when socio-economic and political developments trajectory assure Zimbabwe’s commitment to broad based economic recovery and sustainable development. Central to this effort is securing wildlife resources and their habitats as the country solidifies its reputation for being among the best in wildlife and community-based natural resources management.
What this MoU means
Through this MoU, IFAW will build on activities started nearly three years ago on animal rescue, rehabilitation, and release through our local partner, Wild Is Life (WIL). The pioneering work by IFAW and WIL has already proven to be strategic for Zimbabwe and offers the opportunity for expansion to advance landscape level conservation covering the Hwange-Matetsi Ecosystem in northwestern (NW) Zimbabwe as part of this conservation partnership.
Based on the MoU, IFAW will work together with ZimParks to advance wildlife conservation and protection; support animal rescue, rehabilitation and release to the wild; support research to inform solutions to enhance the persistence of elephants and other wildlife species in a connected network of protected areas. Additionally, it will complement this with the systematic engagement of local communities in the immediate environments of the target areas. This role is directly aligned with our approach of fresh thinking and bold action for animals and people thriving together in landscapes and the habitats we call home.
In this partnership, IFAW will focus on the NW Zimbabwe Protected Area complex anchored around the Zambezi and Victoria National Parks designated UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the 14,000 km2 Hwange National Park, and other land units including the Matetsi Safari Area complex and adjoining CAMPFIRE communities. This is a commitment to collaborate with ZimParks to secure wildlife and promote human well-being in an approximately four million-acre landscape that is a key anchor to the KAZA TFCA and home to Zimbabwe’s largest elephant herd.
IFAW joins this partnership with the firm conviction that strengthening Zimbabwe’s protected area system, the buffer community areas including CAMPFIRE areas, conservancies, and private ranches will contribute to ecological sustainability and economic development at both local and national levels. Interventions will follow a broad-based holistic and integrated framework to ensure ecosystem resilience in Zimbabwe through the following four complementary priority objectives:
· Establish and build high-technology driven rapid response law enforcement capacity to combat wildlife crime
· Engage communities to reduce human wildlife conflict and support conservation friendly livelihoods, with deliberate focus on indigenous people, local communities, youth, and women
· Use innovation and cutting edge science to secure landscape connectivity and resilience where persistence of elephant and other wildlife populations is sustained, and
· Facilitate coordinated inter-agency collaboration to gain political buy-in and influence policy to mobilize sustainable conservation financing. This will include promoting/brokering community-public-private partnerships for nature-based and other conservation-friendly enterprises.
These objectives are informed by priorities in ZIMPARKS’s five-year Strategic Plan for the 2019-2023 period. The scope of work further strengthens Zimbabwe’s commitments to the Southern Africa Regional Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, the recent Law Enforcement Anti-Poaching (LEAP) Strategy for the period 2016-2021, and KAZA strategic plans.
On the horizon
To operationalize this conservation partnership, IFAW will follow a phased approach to prioritize on the ground conservation interventions based on methodical situation analysis, stakeholder mapping, needs assessment, and participatory planning and co-design of solutions. These solutions will be tailored to respond to national priorities identified in existing management plans for the target protected areas. IFAW will bring to bear best practices from lessons learned from its global network of comparable programs including current landscape work closer to home in the Malawi-Zambia TFCA where IFAW’s work in partnership with the governments is bearing success as restoration of parks are on a positive trajectory and local communities are actively contributing to the positive impact.
This partnership is a momentous milestone for IFAW and we are excited and honored to collaborate with ZimParks to work towards transforming the status quo in the wildlife sector and contribute to the Vision 2030 agenda of rebuilding and transforming Zimbabwe into an Upper-Middle Income Economy.
- Jimmiel Mandima, IFAW Deputy Vice President of Conservation Programs