This year's World Wildlife Day theme is "recovering essential species for ecosystem restoration," and emphasizes the importance of wildlife conservation and the benefits of these services to humanity.
This day also serves as a reminder to step up efforts in fighting wildlife crime and educating our community about their responsibility in conservation.
Speaking on the importance of acknowledging this occasion, Ian Du Preez, IAPF's Reserve Manager, gave his remarks on what the organization does with the land we secure and our efforts towards eliminating poaching and other human-induced activities that are detrimental to wildlife.
“In most cases, the land that we protect was previously used for consumptive purposes, such as hunting. Some locations may have simply been neglected for a long time, while others have been the target of widespread poaching.”
“We undertake a lot of work trying to repair previously degraded wildlife areas, and we often begin the process in different stages.”
“These different stages start with trying to stop the poaching activities that occur, then managing the ecosystems through a habitat team.”
“The habitat team would be assigned to manage this process by looking at the infrastructure of the properties, getting back the water supplies and the road networks to make management of these areas more effective.”
Ian Du Preez states there is also an ecological aspect to the way the ecosystem environments are managed.
“The removal of invasive species from the area and the rehabilitation of areas that have succumbed to soil erosion generally begins with looking at the soil, the grass species, the tree species and trying to bring back pristine-type ecosystems.”
“Once pristine ecosystems are available to wildlife, wildlife from surrounding areas will naturally expand and start to colonize these areas that have now been protected and ecologically have improved as a result of us managing them.”
IAPF has spent the last 13 years working to develop strategies that not only protect wildlife but also ensure that the land is a healthy habitat to thrive.
The Akashinga rangers started patrolling in 2017 and their efforts have helped contribute to some remarkable achievements alongside other local stakeholders.
To date, there has been a 90% reduction in elephant poaching in Zimbabwe's mid-to-lower Zambezi Valley.
In the 16 years before the initiative began, this area, which is home to one of the world's largest remaining elephant populations, had lost 8,000 elephants to poaching.
For the Akashinga rangers, these figures serve as essential evidence of the hard work they put in every day to keep protected areas safe from poaching, whether they're out on patrol or learning about the diverse wildlife that lives there.
Since the arrival of Moreangels Mbizah as Lead Scientist (Zimbabwe) for IAPF, we have been able to work toward reversing what some locals may perceive as a negative issue for their communities into an opportunity to work together.
We seek to prevent human-wildlife conflict by building strong relationships with locals in our immediate surroundings.
On the importance of cultivating good relationships with local communities, Ian Du Preez emphasizes that we spend a lot of time and money annually on community projects and welfare programs. The positive results we gain from helping these communities, help minimize poaching threats.
A major threat to animals and ecosystems in the Binga District is illegal fishing in Lake Kariba.
A rise in artisanal and commercial fishing has led to the demise of some of the world's most valuable fish species in recent years.
Monofilament fishing nets have been a persistent concern affecting marine life; last year we destroyed 341 km of illegal monofilament fishing net.
It is our goal that by working hard on the ground, species that had become scarce in their native habitats will be able to return in large numbers in the future.
Ian Du Preez, commenting on the return of animals in the regions we conserve, says,
“There will be some efforts to consider the reintroduction of species that we did have at some point in most of these concessions. And by that, I'm talking about the rhino species, in fact, both the rhino species; so ultimately that would be an absolute success.”
“If we could help with the national conservation efforts pertaining to the black and the white rhino; I do believe we are nowhere near there yet but certainly are moving in the right direction for these particular species.”
“Eventually we would just like to see a general increase of all wildlife numbers and ensure they are kept to sustainable levels of the carrying capacity of these concessions.”