ifaw project helps protect Panda Masuie Forest Reserve and elephant population
November 30, 2020
Like adding a piece to a puzzle, improving the law enforcement capacity of the rangers of the Panda Masuie Forest Reserve supports a much larger vision to ensure thousands of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) can roam free and safe across the world’s largest Trans Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA). Protecting Panda Masuie is a project of IFAW supported by IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union. The Panda Masuie Forest Reserve is a vast 85,000-acre² habitat close to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where IFAW works with Wild is Life-ZEN to reintroduce – and release into the wild – rescued orphan or injured elephants. The reserve is owned by the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe and co-managed by the Commission, WIL, and IFAW that together are working on a long-term project to restore and secure the landscape into which the elephants will be released.
It is also a key protected area and an important part of the network or puzzle of national parks and protected areas, which span five different countries and make up the Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area. It is an area almost twice the size of the United Kingdom. At Panda Masuie, large herds of wild elephants traverse the landscape. There are prides of lion, herds of buffalo, packs of wild dogs, and other rare species like leopard, caracal, brown hyena and bat-eared foxes living there. All of these species feature as vulnerable, near threatened, endangered and even critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Rangers on the frontlines
Keeping these animals safe requires a trained and well-equipped ranger force. IFAW’s Protecting Panda Masuie project supports the Forestry Protection Unit Rangers, men and women at the front-line in preventing poaching and protecting wildlife. Rangers are stationed to protect the forest from varied threats including ivory poaching and trafficking, commercial bushmeat poaching and snaring, as well as deforestation and timber poaching. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant and this project will support them in providing strengthened law enforcement.
Rangers are selfless, risking their lives as they patrol miles every day. IFAW strongly believes that adequately equipping and training them is key to ensuring they stay keen and motivated. We’ll also be providing them with the kit they need to make their patrols more effective, and training them in SMART technology that will help them make strategic management decisions on and off patrol.
Promoting community wellbeing and coexistence
Let’s not forget people. This new project is more good news for the nearby Woodlands community where IFAW is building a wildlife proof fence that will separate the settlement areas from the wilderness area to reduce or eliminate human-wildlife conflict. A Fence Attendant program to train and employ men and women from the community to maintain and service the boundary line will provide income for individuals while benefitting the greater Woodland community by keeping elephants out of their crops and protecting them and their livestock from predators. IFAW’s innovative fence attendant program was first rolled-out in Malawi and it has been a resounding success with one community reporting an almost 100% decrease in human-wildlife conflict as a result. We’re confident of the same for Woodlands.
The community aspect of the work also includes a Livestock Health and Safety Program, critical to ensuring the health of the approximately 660 cattle owned by the Woodland community. We’ll provide veterinary support including dipping of the cattle to ensure their health, and the health of their owners. Protecting Panda Masuie is an incredible opportunity. We see no reason why animals and people cannot thrive together and we intend to show that they can.
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