Cycles help safeguard students from wildlife attacks in Zimbabwe

School girls from communities that surround Hwange National Park smile after receiving bicycles from IFAW and ZimParks under the Riding for Conservation and Education initiative

Hwange, Zimbabwe – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in conjunction with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has donated 100 bicycles to students who walk long distances through the wildlife corridors of Hwange National Park, north west of Zimbabwe.

The fear of getting attacked or killed by wild animals is an everyday reality for these students who come from communities that surround the wildlife sanctuary, hence the donation of bicycles worth US$ 22 000 will provide a buffer against possible dangers. 

Riding for Conservation and Education, is a joint initiative between the IFAW and ZimParks, aimed at breaking the poverty cycle while fostering positive attitudes towards wildlife. 

Most students traverse wildlife corridors on their way to and from school, exposing them to the risk of being attacked by elephants, lions and other wildlife. 

“Based on our experience, conservation efforts work better when local communities are actively engaged and when their expectations and desires are not ignored. Through this intervention, we hope to create a peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife and, most importantly, make a lasting impact in the lives of these children who will become future conservation champions,” said Dr Fulton Mangwanya, ZimParks Director General.

“Education plays a pivotal role in breaking the poverty cycle and in fostering positive attitudes towards wildlife,” says IFAW Landscape Conservation Director, Phillip Kuvawoga. “Children are the wildlife heroes of the future. By investing in their education now we hope to create a better future for communities and the wildlife that live amongst them, one ride at a time.”

In addition to the bicycles, IFAW and ZimParks also handed over 500 textbooks to 10 schools from the Hwange and Tsholotsho Districts. 

About 1,600 students will benefit, which will also improve the textbook-to-student ratio, which currently stands at 1:5.   

The Environmental Stewardship Programme (ESP) supports 21 primary schools located in the buffer communities of Hwange, Lupane, and Tsholotsho districts since its inception in 2019. 

The IFAW and ZimParks initiative seeks to develop and instill conservation and sustainable practices, values, and principles in children aged 8 – 15 years.

Hwange National Park is part of the Hwange-Matetsi-Zambezi landscape where IFAW implements its Room to Roam initiative, to secure and connect habitats for elephants and other wildlife. 

It supports local communities to develop strategies for them to live successfully with wildlife.

The bikes are supplied as part of a wider Environmental Stewards Programme being implemented in these schools, to improve access to education and help mitigate human-wildlife conflict. 

The donation comes at a time when the Zimbabwean government is in the process of coming up with a legal framework aimed at cushioning victims of human wildlife conflict in the country.

The move came after noting reports of human wildlife conflict are on the increase owing to ballooning populations of elephants and other wildlife species in the country. 

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