Chiredzi — Government has started restructuring wildlife-rich Save Valley Conservancy in southeast Lowveld as part of efforts to curb rampant poaching and to reduce conflict between animals and humans who have settled in the area.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is spearheading the rehabilitation process of the mega park in the semi-arid Lowveld.
The move to restructure the 340 000-hectare Save Conservancy comes amid reports of a surge in poaching activity following occupation of parts of the park by land hungry villagers from Chiredzi and Bikita districts.
Government recently ordered that Save Valley be incorporated into the Parks estates under the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority after withdrawing hunting leases from politicians and other bigwigs mainly from Masvingo province who had allocated themselves permits of up to 25 years under the wildlife-based land reform.
Restructuring of the conservancy involves demarcating a new boundary where a new perimeter fence will be erected.
Almost half of a 320km double perimeter fence around Save Valley was destroyed by the new settlers, increasing the chances of contact between humans and wildlife.
Over $4 million is required to rebuild the fence.
There are growing fears wildlife at Save Valley could be decimated by both subsistence and commercial poachers unless immediate remedial action is taken.
The authority’s head of management services, Mr Geoffreys Matipano, confirmed rehabilitation of Save Valley was underway.
“Reconstruction of a perimeter fence is a huge and expensive undertaking. A complete perimeter fence will only be possible once properties that make up the new Save Valley Conservancy are determined given that some properties are now settled by A1 farmers. The exercise to restructure the conservancy is underway,” he said.
Mr Matipano said while individuals property owners in the conservancy were expected to conduct anti-poaching activities at Save Valley, the authority was spearheading the charge to curb both subsistence and commercial poaching.
He said the authority had deployed officers to deal with problems of poaching in the conservancy.
“The authority has deployed a senior Parks officer and patrol rangers on permanent basis in the Save Valley Conservancy and is working with the Zimbabwe Republic Police Support Unit on anti-poaching operations in the area. The authority is also working with private farm rangers,” he said.
“All rangers deployed in the conservancy went through a refresher training programme and the authority has drawn up an anti-poaching strategy covering many aspects including curbing armed poaching and poisoning of wildlife. There is also a rhino management frame and elephant management plan. Besides staff stationed in the conservancy, the authority has elephant and rhino coordinators focusing on biological and security issues.”
Investigations by The Herald revealed that almost half of the conservancy on the southern part of Tugwi River is under threat owing to rampant subsistence poaching targeting mainly small game.
Mr Matipano confirmed poaching of small wildlife species in Save Valley.
While Save Valley has the potential to earn over $2 million per annum by allocating hunting quotas and visits by tourists, business has been almost at a standstill over the past four years, a development that impinged on the capacity of property owners to finance anti-poaching operations.
Mr Matipano, however, said the authority issued hunting permits this year.
“All properties with meaningful wildlife that applied for hunting quotas and permits were issued with these documents to do their business. BIPPA (Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement)-covered properties were left alone, and are not being managed by Parks,” he added.
When The Herald visited the wildlife-rich conservancy recently, operators in the southern part of Save Valley said the future of the conservancy was bleak unless Government speedily restructures it.
Properties in the south such as Nyangambe, Humane, Senuko 2 and 3, Hammond, Lavanga, Impala, Angus, Mukazi and Mukwazi are under occupation by settlers, most of them without offer letters.
Poaching is negligible in the northern side of Save Valley where properties such as Sango, Makore, Savuli, Mapare, Gwindingwi, Matendere, Chishakwe, Musaisi and Mukondo are protected under BIPPAs.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa was non-committal on the fate of Save Valley.
“I do not want to comment on Save Valley Conservancy. We are still waiting for President Mugabe to give us direction on what needs to be done there. President Mugabe will tell us the direction that we will take at Save going forward,” she said.
Sen Mahofa last month told Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the Masvingo provincial leadership wanted black players to be involved in running Save Valley.
She intimated that the entry of black players would solve current security issues around Save Valley where white operators are alleged to be externalising wildlife using private airstrips dotted around the mega wildlife conservancy.