The war on poaching has been given a record $14 750 boost by a fundraising golf tournament, coordinated by Africa Albida Tourism, in which an all-female team claimed the top prize for the first time.
The 14th Annual Fundraising Golf Day for the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU), was won by Fi Ranby and Linda O’Toole, who narrowly beat runners-up Ian De Grandehomme and Sally-Anne McDonald.
VFAPU was established by local safari operator and conservationist Charles Brightman and the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, the flagship property of the Africa Albida Tourism group, in 1999, in an effort to fight the alarming levels of poaching.
Africa Albida Tourism chief executive Ross Kennedy said he was proud of VFAPU’s achievements, which included removing 22 000 wire snares in the area in which they patrol, arresting 580 serious poachers and saving 175 mammals injured by poachers.
“The positive difference that Brightman and his dedicated scouts make 365 days of the year are invaluable and should be recognised by all involved in tourism around Victoria Falls,” he said.
Kennedy said Africa Albida Tourism would continue to support their efforts, and all proceeds from the Golf Day would go directly to VFAPU, with the costs of more than $5 000 to be covered by Africa Albida Tourism.
“In our 14th year, in a tough economic environment for most Zimbabweans, just short of $15 000 was raised, which is a record and we applaud all supporters for this magnificent effort,” he said.
Brightman said the funds would go towards the operational costs of the unit, which included salaries, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
VFAPU, which operates in a 50-square km area around Victoria Falls, and has 17 scouts, tackled everything from wood to ivory poaching.
“Bush meat poaching is probably the commonest form of poaching in our operational area, and this is not people starving, but gangs and syndicates operating and selling bush meat for profit,” Brightman said.
“VFAPU is very grateful for the opportunity to work together with the National Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. It just shows what can be done when you join forces and work together for a common goal in saving Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage.”
Brightman thanked past and present supporters and appealed to the public to support the unit by donating money or equipment, such as uniforms, flashlights, sleeping bags, tents, two-way radios or new tyres for the vehicles.