Just three wildlife scouts could never have been enough to protect animals from poaching. Thanks to continued local and international support, the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU) has grown into a strong team.
The unit was formed in 1999 by Charles Brightman, a local safari operator and conservationist, and the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. There are now 16 scouts in the unit.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge continues to support the unit’s work, with donations to match the amounts their clients give – nearly $6,000 in December – and by sponsoring six of the scouts. They also provide back-up and other support as needed.
Fifteen years after its inception, the unit patrols an area of around 50 square kilometres surrounding Victoria Falls, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, come rain or shine. The unit aims to combat poaching in all its various forms.
Throughout 2013, the VFAPU workedto deter subsistence and commercial poaching, as well as rescue and rehabilitate animals injured by human interference. Three warthog and an elephant were darted and treated, and 304 people were caught in the National Park estate over the course of the year for contravening the laws of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Most of those caught (281) were found to be illegally taking wood poaching. More than 200 snares were removed from the area too.
Sadly, three impala, three buffalo, an elephant, a waterbuck, a kudu and a common duiker were lost to poachers in 2013. However, had it not been for the presence, persistence and passion of the anti-poaching unit, the count would undoubtedly be much higher.
The VFAPU is a non-profit organisation and depends on donations to continue to conserve the local wildlife and natural resources of Victoria Falls. VFAPU personnel are former commercial security guards and game scouts from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The unit works on all projects in co-operation with the senior warden, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Zambezi Camp.