Back in 2013, cyanide poisoning killed 300 elephants, and other wildlife, in the western part of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Poachers snuck into the park via a rural outpost and laced salt licks with the lethal poison. The catastrophe made global headlines that year, but the poaching didn’t stop. Wildlife continued to be killed for bushmeat in the massive park.
Now, a new ranger station constructed in the Makona area of Hwange National Park will make it a safer place for elephants and other animals to live.
The new construction will also help the communities living near the park, who have suffered from elephants and other large herbivores destroying their crops and predators killing their livestock.
poaching has already declined
The new Makona Ranger Sub-station was built under a US$5M conservation agreement between ZimParks and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). It is a foundational step in Room to Roam—IFAW’s new vision to ensure safe and healthy coexistence for Africa’s elephants as they move freely across their natural range.
Although the station will be officially opened in the next couple of months, IFAW has already supported ranger training in the park and procurement of a patrol vehicle and other equipment. As a result, there has been a significant reduction in poaching with not a single elephant incident being recorded in Hwange National Park in the past three years.
56 rangers to move in
When complete, the camp will be home to 56 rangers and their families who will live and work there. Comfortable housing, equipped with electricity and running water, is being built for junior rangers and senior staff, and a recreation centre is under construction.
The operations centre is already in use and set up with a landscape-wide VHF radio network—vital communications equipment that connects rangers and improves responses to incidents of poaching.
a faster journey to Makona
Before the camp was constructed, responses to poaching incidents and problem animals were slow, with rangers being deployed from Hwange Main Camp, some 95 kilometres away and enduring a terrible road snaking through the sticky Kalahari sands.
Augustine Gomba, ZimParks’ Wildlife Officer based at Hwange Main Camp, says before the road was developed, driving to Makona was a nightmare. “The sandy soils and the rugged nature of the road meant that that on average the trip to Makona would take a grueling four hours at least,” he says.
A key achievement of the IFAW-ZimParks agreement was the improvement of the road, cutting a journey that could take up to four hours down to less than two.
The park is nestled on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and is home to some of Africa’s most iconic species. Being largely flat and dominated by scattered woodlands of teak trees, it was an easy target for poachers.
The new ranger station will prevent poachers from entering Hwange National Park in the future, allowing the park’s elephants and other wildlife to continue to flourish.