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Community Wildlife Scouts to complement sustainable human-wildlife relations - AWF

by Gideon Madzikatidze/Simbarashe Sithole
21 Dec 2023 at 07:53hrs | Views
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has built capacity of 118 community wildlife scouts through targeted professional trainings that equipped them with basic and advanced skills in ecological monitoring, ranger-based data collection, conducting problem animal management, communicating with stakeholders in wildlife-rich areas and timeous community engagements on conservation aspects using human rights-based approaches.

Commenting on sustainability of Community Wildlife Scouts response to human-wildlife relations, AWF Country Director, Ms Olivia Mufute claimed that her organisation will tirelessly work with stakeholders to ensure improvement and sustainability of human-wildlife relations through tolerance and co-existence mechanisms.

"The AWF equipped these scouts with the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) cyber trackers, uniforms, including patrol boots critical for their work during anti-poaching patrols," Mufute said.

"The provision of patrol and field equipment motivate the community wildlife scouts and allow them to carry out their responsibilities more efficiently," Mufute added.

Mufute said the cyber trackers are critical in wildlife conservation in the Mid Zambezi Valley landscape, which is one of AWF's priority landscapes as they provide a powerful way of collecting data, monitoring wildlife population, aiding in combatting anti-poaching and effective in human wildlife conflict management.

"This enables conservation players to make informed decisions vital in protecting threatened species, thereby affecting current and future conservation programming," Mufute said.

"The community scouts are contributing to information and data needed by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) at national level to make informed management decisions critical for input into policy reviews," Mufute added.

The AWF has noted that in addition, joint patrols with Zimparks have provided the community scouts opportunities to build professional relationships with ZPWMA rangers, requesting for assistance in curbing illegal wildlife trade and trafficking in the Districts.

"Due to the skills gained, community scouts are now able to do joints patrols with the Zimparks rangers signaling the long-term sustainability of scouts and their skills even in the absence of donor funds. The technical assistance and funding support with appropriate field equipment for community wildlife scouts, upgraded their skills, and increased joint patrols with park rangers,

"This ultimately improves enforcement in community lands with broader patrol coverage as well as benefits accruing to local communities," Mufute said.

"The community scouts have had a significant impact on reducing the incidence of elephant poaching in the districts, identifying poachers and making arrests during the joint patrols with Zimparks rangers, removing snares and reducing illegal fishing on the Zambezi River," Mufute remarks.

Mufute also claimed good partnerships have been developed with safari operators in the districts thereby ensuring long-term sustainability.

The AWF cited inclusion of female scouts in the recruitment as a huge motivation to the youths since women interact more with nature and their role in natural resources management is critical, hence empowered female scouts are therefore critical in biodiversity conservation through “You empower a girl child and positively transform a whole community!'' mantra, thus how empowering women ensures sustainability.

Mufute said the fact that these community wildlife scouts are drawn from within local communities such as Mbire District "further reinforces their effectiveness in promoting the peaceful co-existence of wildlife and people".

The AWF said in such a way, they better understand the importance of wildlife and can raise awareness in a manner that is understandable by local communities.

"Community wildlife scouts also use non-lethal, readily available deterrents, such as Chili in deterring wild animals. Prior to the Utariri Program, AWF trained farmers and scouts on chili farming, supplied them with chili seed and linked them to the markets," Mufute noted.

"This long overdue gesture which was extended in collaboration with Agritex enable scouts and communities to manage human wildlife conflict and get alternative livelihood options at the same time without donor aid," added Mufute.

The AWF added that the strengthening of district human wildlife conflict structures further reinforces the sustainability of community wildlife scouts' response to HWC.

Under the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) funded 'Utariri-Integrated and Adaptive Biodiversity, Climate and Livelihoods Project in the Zambezi Valley,' and previous projects such as the 'Partnership for Improved Anti-Poaching and Compatible Land Use in Community Lands of Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools Transboundary Conservation Area 2018-2021' funded by the European Union, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) built the capacity of 118 community wildlife scouts through targeted professional trainings that equipped them with basic and advanced skills in ecological monitoring, ranger-based data collection, conducting problem animal management, communicating with stakeholders in wildlife-rich areas, as well as engaging the local community on conservation aspects using human rights-based approaches.

Source - Byo24News