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to combat wildfires in Zimbabwe’s pristine forest reserve, we burn barriers
Panda Masuie Forest Reserve in Zimbabwe is frequently threatened by wildfires, posing a danger to some of the world’s most endangered species. To combat the problem, conservationists are fighting fire with fire.
“We burn a massive 120 kilometres of firebreaks every year to prevent the rampant forest fires that happen later in the dry season from destroying our forest,” said Jos Danckwerts, Conservation Director for the IFAW-WIL Panda Masuie Release Project.
Climate change and human activity help fuel wildfires, posing serious threats to some of the world’s most highly sensitive biodiversity spots and iconic wildlife species.
Situated near the western boundary of Zimbabwe and close to Victoria Falls, the 344-square-kilometre Panda Masuie Forest Reserve is a key protected area, home to some of the world’s most endangered and threatened animals like elephants, African painted dogs, lions, hyenas and leopards.
This is where partners Wild is Life (WIL), the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe and IFAW fight the destructive flames by burning firebreaks to ensure wildfires don’t spread into the sanctuary.
Burning a firebreak is time-consuming, difficult and dangerous. It entails burning a strip measuring between 20 and 30 metres wide along the boundary roads surrounding the reserve to prevent forest fires from spreading.
Each year, prior to the onset of the July to October fire season, WIL and the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe field a team of 14 people—escorted by three rangers at time—to burn the barriers that protect critical habitat.
“[Wildfires] are prevalent across the globe and Zimbabwe has not been spared,” says Phillip Kuvawoga, Director of IFAW’s Landscape Conservation Programme. “We are proud to join hands with our partners WIL and Forestry Commission to develop risk-reduction initiatives and to secure the Panda Masuie Forest Reserve from bushfires.”
Co-managed by the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe and WIL, with technical and funding support from IFAW, Panda Masuie is also a place where traumatised orphan and injured elephants are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
The mission to protect the wildlife and landscape from threats like climate change, poaching and wildfires is essential.
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