"They are coming here next to go after Zim's elephants," he said. "It's a mafia network of spies with connections at all levels of society. We're ramping up to do all we can to stop them." I was at the Victoria Falls airport a few years ago on a custom safari in Zimbabwe when I unknowingly struck up a conversation with an attaché of the U.S. embassy. He wouldn't tell me more, other than the fact that diminishing elephant herds and ivory trade bans made poaching more difficult in other regions of Africa. "In contrast," he said, "the tens of thousands of elephants roaming around Zimbabwe are going to be much easier pickings if we don't do our part to help stop it."
The picture he described of elephant poaching is the lens through which I'm reporting on this month's 'A Closer Look' of Zimbabwe and its elephants. I've traveled to most of the major national parks and wildlife concessions of southern Africa, and few of my encounters with elephants were as 'close up' as those I've experienced in Zimbabwe. Hwange National Park, one of Africa's greatest and oldest parks, is especially known for its elephant population up to 50,000 strong in peak migration. Combined with the elephant herds of northern Botswana and surrounding countries, Hwange's elephants are part of the world's largest contiguous elephant population whose migratory route is the basis for the Kvango Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area spanning the frontier borders of five continuous countries: Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
In Hwange, you can't help but get 'A Closer Look' at elephants because there are so many of them! In fact, rangers, guides and
wildlife experts point out there are too many of them for reasons too complicated to get into here, except to say that it all started in the 1920's when water holes and pumps were put in to bring back big game for hunting. Now elephants depend on water that is pumped into watering holes or they will die from dehydration. And, the thriving population has fostered a resurging safari business that also provides clean drinking water and food, and supports education and health care for indigenous communities around the park. This is why we created our Water for Hwange Safari
, to help the wildlife and locals with their water needs. (More later in the blog)We don't just offer safaris in Zimbabwe. Our work there is threefold:
1. To offer exceptional wildlife safari experiences, not only with elephants but traversing the diverse habitats featuring all the other big game there.
2. To help protect elephants from poachers and support their health and well-being, especially by providing sustainable water sources.
3. Connect you with the gracioius and grateful tribal communities.
Many of the most highly skilled, well-trained safari guides in Africa are from Zimbabwe, and on a Wildland Adventure in Zimbabwe
, there are several AMAZING opportunities for 'A Closer Look' at elephants like tracking them on foot:
And there's much more than elephants in Hwange. Lions are legendary here, and cheetah populations are thriving, not to mention healthy wildebeest herds and prolific bird populations. Our one-time-only Zimbabwe Conservation Safari is a special symbiosis of incredible wildlife viewing with hand-on conservation working side by side with researchers and game wardens, gathering data about lions, wild dog and cheetah, watching out for snares and other signs of poaching, and providing water at pump sites for thirsty herds of elephants.
Our safaris are part of Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE initiative bridging local communities with tourism for the purpose of conservation and better natural resource management. Local people are already deeply committed to protecting animals and habitat to support a thriving safari tourism business. So much so that even local hunters who used to poach animals for food have more food and a better life after having been trained and hired as safari guides or staff at local camps and lodges. Now they are some of the most outspoken community leaders for conservation. And the best part for our travelers is the local communities we visit that have literally opened their doors to receive guests into their villages. They take us into their homes and share village life as they tend crops and carry water from the well. We join kids walking to school and then read, dance and play music together. We also sit in a circle with the village chief and his wife learning about the challenges of their rural life living amongst wildlife.
In Part 2: A Closer Look at Elephants & People in Zimbabwe I review our conservation efforts including the 4 water swells we are planning on building and how you can be a part of this journey.
If you'd like to contrubute to our fundarising efforts you can donate on our GoFundMe Page. We are raising $24,000 to purchase, install and maintain four new hybrid water pumps in and around Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. These solar-diesel pumps will provide sustainable and reliable water sources for wildlife and drinking water for local villages.
If you have any questions about our Zimbabwe Conservation Safari please don't hesitate to give us a call 800-345-4453 or contact our Africa Director Chris Moriarty.
Keeping it wild,