Gonarezhou Conservation Project
Gonarezhou, when taken on its own merit, is a jewel amongst African National Parks, but also plays a key role in one of Africa's most progressive conservation initiatives: the creation of one of the largest conservation areas in the world: the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park - a 35,000 square kilometers (8,649,584 acres) tri-national animal kingdom.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Environment and Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010, valid for a 10-year period. This agreement enabled FZS to enter into a partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) for the conservation and development of Gonarezhou National Park (GNP). Work on the ground had already started in 2007 through an earlier MoU.
The Gonarezhou Conservation Project has focused on providing resources to ensure that all essential park management activities can take place. The support is supplied in conjunction with a process of supporting transparent and effective management systems. These activities are done within the context of a General Management Plan, which underwent a major review by FZS and ZPWMA at the onset of the project. Ecological monitoring takes place to measure the impact of project activities, as well as to guide future management actions – large mammal aerial surveys, carnivore spoor surveys, fire monitoring, vegetation mapping and elephant movement studies form part of this ongoing effort. Investment into tourism infrastructure development and information also forms a part of the project, as GNP is seen to be a viable tourism destination with significant opportunity for tourism to contribute to park management costs in the future if facilities and the quality of game-viewing can be improved.
WHAT WE DO TO SUPPORT GONAREZHOU
- Park planning – Review of the Gonarezhou Park Management Plan, inclusive of the Tourism Plan has been undertaken, and the resulting document serves as a roadmap for the activities of the project and provides the blueprint for the envisaged park infrastructure and tourism development. The plan emphasises that the wilderness character of the park is one of it's most important features to be retained in the future, and this factor is taken into consideration when planning and implementing any new development or management activity.
- Increased law enforcement coverage and effectiveness through regular monthly supply of ranger patrol rations, operational fuel and field equipment as well as focused and relevant training. Availability of a project aircraft increases the capacity for detection of illegal activities and support to ranger units in the field.
- Infrastructure maintenance and improvements: Rehabilitation and extension of the road network for both management and tourism purposes. Renovation of key administrative structures such as vehicle workshops and staff housing, overhaul of water provisioning equipment, and renovations of the tourism camping facilities. A 53-km electrified fence was erected in the northwest section of the park in order to minimise human-wildlife conflict, and to halt the escalating number of cattle herds that were entering into the park for grazing.
- Provision and maintenance of equipment are crucial for effective park management such as vehicles, tractors, earth-moving equipment, communication equipment, fire-fighting and office equipment
- Increased ecological knowledge through provision of equipment, resources and/or support for studies into elephant movements, river health monitoring, disease prevalence, large carnivore status and vegetation mapping. Ongoing monitoring of trends in wildlife population numbers through comprehensive aerial surveys – surveys completed in 2009 and 2013.