There are two sides to every coin. Without a doubt there is a lot to be worried about when it comes to what is happening to our natural world. Issues such as poaching, human encroachment on wild spaces, animal species going extinct and deforestation are all issues we hear being voiced regularly. Today though, I want to show you the other side of the coin. There is also a huge amount of good being done to curb these various impacts, one of which is currently happening very close to Londolozi.
In a previous post I explained how a recent trip to the Kruger National Park had got me thinking about how Londolozi fitted into this huge wildlife area that was bigger than the country of Wales or the US state of New Jersey. The Kruger National Park is a key component of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) which is a long-term project to drop fences between various game reserves in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, creating a wilderness area that would cover in excess of 100 000 square km’s.
One can understand how a project of this magnitude has to be regarded as a long-term one because of various issues such as co-operation between three different governments, overcoming poaching in certain areas, dropping border fences as well as large scale animal re-introduction into some of the game reserves that will eventually make up the entire TFCA.
Zinave National Park in Mozambique is one such game reserve in need of animal reintroduction. It is about 20% the size of the Kruger National Park and used to be home to large populations of species across its diverse array of habitats. It was proclaimed as a National Park by the Mozambique government in 1972 but soon after it lost most of its wildlife when civil war ravaged the country between 1980 – 1992. Bush meat was often the only source of food for the soldiers who fought on both sides of the war.
Needless to say it was incredibly exciting to learn that in June this year, one of the largest wildlife relocation projects that Africa has ever seen commenced, with the purpose being to restock Zinave National Park with animals. On completion the project will see about 7500 animals of various species being transported overland to the park over the next few years from Zimbabwe, South Africa and other parts of Mozambique. The animals will be sourced from other conservation areas that have a surplus of animals and most of them will be donated to the project with the Peace Parks Foundation funding the relocation costs.
The first animals have already been moved from the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe and the initial phase saw nearly 50 elephants together with 200 zebra, 100 giraffe, 900 impala, 200 eland, 300 wildebeest and 50 kudus being loaded up into large trucks to make the 600km journey to their new home. The safety of the animals was taken care of by a support staff of 120 people that included game-capture personnel, veterinarians, ecologists, helicopter pilots and truck drivers.
Projects such as these and any other initiatives that help to expand wild areas reserved for animals are vital for the protection of a huge number of species. Quite possibly the biggest threat to animals in Africa is the loss of habitat due to human development which makes this project so exciting and I am looking forward to following all the developments that come with it. After all it is an incredible thought that in a few years time I could theoretically drive over 400km, from right here at Londolozi, through habitats teeming with wildlife and find myself in Zinave National Park without ever having left a natural area.
We know that here at Londolozi, animals are constantly shifting their territories and essentially re-locating themselves between the Sabi Sands and the adjacent Kruger National Park. This constant flux of animals ensures the persistence of strong genes as individuals old enough to breed end up very far from their natal population. It also means that in times of drought, such as the one experienced last year, animals can move to areas with more abundant vegetation to feed. Recently we saw this sort of movement with the arrival of the Avoca and Birmingham male lions from areas north of us. Other examples from previous years include the Matshipiri coalition who dispersed from the Kruger National Park as well as leopards such as the Robson’s 4:4 male who did the same. Although nature is currently getting a much-needed helping hand with the re-establishment of these critical wildlife corridors, the thought that the animals living on Londolozi at the moment may well one day be able to move as far north as Zinave, should they wish, is an incredibly heartwarming one.