Update from Hwange National Park and The Hwange Lion Conservation Safari Initiative

During last years' Hwange Lion Conservation Safari our guests visited the Ngamo Primary School located on the outskirts of Hwange National Park where we spent some time with members of the Children in The Wilderness Eco Club.

What is an Eco-Club you ask? Eco-Clubs are an initiative of Children in The Wilderness, a non-profit organisation supported by ecotourism company Wilderness Safaris to facilitate sustainable conservation through leadership development and education of rural children in Africa. These clubs give learners who are interested in the environment a chance to meet, learn, discuss and expand their knowledge of environmental issues. The interactive, fun sessions are designed to also be informative. Environmental projects and tasks are earmarked and organized in cooperation with the community members and teachers. The children are encouraged to participate in the planning process and come up with their own ideas in order for them to take ownership of their clubs and the projects. The Eco-Clubs are increasingly providing positive community development while reaching a wider community.

During our time at the school it was noticed that the Eco-Club members didn’t know of and hadn’t met the Scorpions APU and so, it seemed only right that our donation towards the school was used to take the eco-club members on an excursion into the National Park to visit the Scorpions at their base at Wexau.

WE are VERY happy to share this feedback from the team at Children in The Wilderness.

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The Scorpions Anti-Poaching Unit in Hwange National Park recently played host to the Eco Club Grade 7s at Ngamo Primary School. This was to expose the students to this amazing team’s efforts in tackling poaching in the Hwange National Park which borders on this community. Panthera, an organisation devoted to the conservation of big cats, sponsors the Scorpions Anti-Poaching Unit as well as five CITW Eco-Clubs in Tsholotsho. On a recent visit to Ngamo Primary School’s Eco Club lesson, Panthera’s Paul Funston, and Wild Eye guests, were lucky enough to experience a lesson which as fate would have it, was on anti-poaching. The guests were so impressed by the content of the lesson, and the quality of teaching that they pledged to fund a visit to the Scorpions for each of the five Eco Clubs in the area, where they would be able to see the set-up and learn more about what the Scorpions do, thus consolidating what they had learned in their lesson.

On this particular visit, a media team from Germany accompanied the tour and took the opportunity to film the excursion as a showcase of what the CITW programme offers. On arrival, the students were introduced to the rangers and then shown to the educational centre. Here, the walls lined with over 3500 snares collected on the daily patrols over the last few years, were a grim reminder of the size of the problem. A scavenger hunt for various types of snares hidden in and around the education centre, while fun, caused much discussion on which snare catches which animal and brought home to the students how cruel and destructive to wildlife numbers snaring is. This hands-on education provides students with the knowledge on what to look for in snares around their villages.

The Scorpions team demonstrated how they work and the effect on the wildlife population. A large portion of their work involves daily patrols to many different areas of the park in order to retrieve snares thus preventing a loss of wildlife there. The unit works in close collaboration with the communities neighbouring the park, and it was here that the children learned how they too could become involved. Arnold Tshipa, the Wilderness Safaris ecologist, chatted to the children about the need to protect the wildlife we have, and the importance of notifying the Headman or Scorpions if they heard or knew of any snaring activities in their community. They were further encouraged to share the conservation message, with their school colleagues, and the communities they live in.

A short question and answer session allowed the school children the opportunity to interact with the rangers and find out about the work that they do to conserve the wildlife in the area. Mr Moyo, the headmaster at Ngamo Primary School, said that the children demonstrated a keen interest in the message that was shared with them, and hoped that one day they could join the Scorpions in their fight to protect Zimbabwe’s wildlife. He invited the Scorpions to the school to teach more children about the work that they do. Funding for these excursions, in addition to the running of the Eco-Clubs, is provided by Panthera, and has become an integral part of the CITW programme. These excursions are ongoing to ensure that as CITW Zambezi many children have the opportunity to learn about anti-poaching as possible. We are so grateful for Panthera’s continued support and interest in our programme.

Andrew Beck

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