New Tourism Complex In Hwange National Park More Than 65% Complete.

– The new complex will serve as a high-security checkpoint equipped with smart camera technology to bolster efforts against wildlife trafficking

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Construction of the Hwange One-Stop Pavilion for Wildlife Information and Services in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is now more than 65% complete, according to Minister of Environment, Climate and Wildlife, Sithembiso Nyoni. The update came during a cabinet progress report on Tuesday.

This US$1.4 million project, which began in October 2023, aims to revitalize Zimbabwe’s wildlife tourism industry. Hwange National Park, the second-largest wildlife reserve in the region after Kruger National Park, will benefit significantly.

Though initially slated for completion in June 2024, unforeseen logistical challenges caused minor delays. The new complex will serve as a high-security checkpoint equipped with smart camera technology to bolster efforts against wildlife trafficking.

This multi-use development at Hwange’s main entrance will include a visitor center, tourism offices, a car park, housing for wildlife rangers, and a new gate. Mak Bakano Construction Company, led by Project Manager Engineer Remembrance Guchani, is spearheading construction efforts.

This project is the latest initiative in the extended 25-year partnership between Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (ZimParks) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to support wildlife conservation in Hwange. 

The partnership, renewed in 2023 with an expected investment of US$50 million, aims to transform Hwange into a well-managed and well-protected haven for wildlife and a driver of Zimbabwe’s economy.

“IFAW’s long-term partnership with ZimParks is to transform Hwange National Park into a well-managed and well-protected park that can serve as a haven for wildlife and an economic engine for Zimbabwe,” said Alleta Nyahuye, IFAW’s Director for Zimbabwe, during the groundbreaking ceremony. “We are excited about the journey ahead and remain optimistic that our interventions will contribute to the recovery and growth of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector.”

Covering roughly 14,600 square meters, Hwange National Park is the country’s largest. It’s home to over 45,000 elephants and a diverse range of wildlife, but the park’s entrance currently doesn’t reflect its grandeur.

In line with the ZimParks-IFAW partnership, local communities will be involved in the project through collaboration with traditional leaders and the Hwange Rural Council. Since 2019, this partnership has focused on improving park infrastructure, empowering communities, strengthening law enforcement, and developing tourism.

Past achievements include the restoration of the Nyamandlovu Pan, a critical waterhole for wildlife and tourists, upgrading the Mandabvu picnic site, and refurbishing guest lodges at the Hwange Main Camp.

Poaching and Interventions

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has reported an impressive 88.46% decrease in poaching activities targeting the big five (elephants, rhinos, lions, and buffalos) over the past five years. Additionally, detections, arrests, and recoveries related to poaching have significantly decreased by 90% from 2019 to 2024.

According to ZimParks statistics, poaching incidents involving the big five dropped from 130 in 2019 to just 15 this year. Tinashe Farawo, ZimParks Spokesperson, attributes this success to increased ranger presence and collaboration with conservation partners.

“The drop is caused by more effort, more boots that we are putting on the ground,” Farawo told ConserveZim. “This is despite a shortage of rangers due to lack of resources. But most importantly, the work we’re doing with conservation partners has also helped in fighting poaching right across the country.”

While elephants were the most targeted animal in 2019 (with 53 deaths nationwide), buffaloes have become the primary target since 2020. This year alone, only three elephants and two rhinos were killed compared to 10 buffaloes.

The IFAW intervention comes at a critical time. The illegal wildlife trade, valued at US$7 to US$23 billion annually, is a major threat to endangered and threatened species worldwide, fueled by demand for consumption, status symbols, and traditional medicine.

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