Following the recent disturbing news of the death of 100 elephants in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe as a result of ivory poaching, the Victoria Falls Anti-poaching Unit (VFAPU) has some much-needed good news.
For the last few days the Unit has been trying to trace an elephant bull which had been caught up in a cable snare. Now they have found the animal and have been able to remove the snare and treat the horrific wounds. Unit scouts will continue to track the bull and monitor his progress towards what will hopefully be a good recovery.
A rescue mission like this is all too familiar and involves team work from the VFAPU and other local agencies, including the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. Snares are common within the Victoria Falls National Park and the Zambezi National Park. Poachers target their victims by positioning cable snares at water points where they know animals will congregate. Recently, one such snare caused the slow and painful death of a buffalo cow. This kind of suffering makes the scouts even more determined to do their utmost to continue their fight against poaching.
The Victoria Falls Anti-poaching Unit (VFAPU) was established in 1999 in an effort to combat a dramatic increase in various forms of poaching. Having started off with three scouts initially, the Unit has grown in strength and now has twelve full-time scouts actively patrolling an area of approximately fifty square kilometres. Patrols operate seven days a week, day and night, whatever the weather.
Traditionally when people think of poaching, they think of an animal caught in a snare, but the poaching of hardwood is a growing problem too. A significant percentage of poached wood is destined for the souvenir trade; a substantial market that is particularly prevalent in tourist areas like Victoria Falls. As more and more communities rely on the sale of carved wooden curios to bring in money, the environment is suffering. Indigenous trees are being felled to fund this industry, along with the illegal practice of charcoal burning and the use of wood for open fires. Sand is also being poached to make bricks for shelter, quarry stone for construction purposes and plants are being taken for food.
Recently around 120 elephants and 100 buffalo were spotted near the Mpala Jena River in the Zambezi National Park. This sighting, and others like it, reflect the excellent work the Unit is doing to conserve wildlife in this area. Where once there was desolation, now large numbers of different species are evident and the continued decline in wood poaching is helping to restore this area of natural beauty to its former glory.
The Victoria Falls Anti-poaching Unit is a non-profit organisation and, as such, urgently requires funding to allow scouts to continue their work. We need your help. Please consider sponsoring the VFAPU here.