Freedom, our Anti-Poaching and Community Liaison Manager, who is part of Bushlife Conservancy and Bushlife Support Unit, recently attended a conference in Washington DC, funded by the US government – The African Regional Program in International Visitor Leadership Program. Freedom was one of only 13 people from Africa nominated to attend, and represent Zimbabwe in a program titled “Combating Wildlife Trafficking”.
Freedom presented on Bushlife Support Unit’s anti – poaching support rendered to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, community outreach, engagement and projects support as a way of bringing together social responsibility and networking towards wildlife resources monitoring. We are pioneering new itiatitives through a collaborative community approach which will see the development of junior ranger programs, resource monitors, self-help projects, wildlife conservation clubs in schools and much more.
Freedom had the good fortune to meet with many people and organisations in the conservation sector, who shared their ideas and learnings, some of which are outlined below:
Freedom met the World Wildlife Fund in the US headquarters where discussions covered global wildlife trade and WWF’s strategies for protecting endangered wildlife. They highlighted species that they were focusing on such as elephant, great ape, and rhinos. They are involved in different parts of the world in landscape planning, protected area management, law enforcement, community-based natural resources management, and the monitoring of species populations over time and space.
A very interesting presentation was held in Washington DC by the Interim Wildlife Crime Program Director, who had spent many years working in Southern Africa except Zimbabwe, and was well versed with African challenges. He had many recommendations on how we approached helping community work with conservation efforts in the Zambezi Valley.
Freedom also visited Burlington Vermont and had various meetings with Vermont Fish and Wildlife department Game Garden Col Jason Batchelor. He shared with us various programs and initiatives implemented to combat poaching and investigate suspected instances of illegal hunting and trade. We had an opportunity to share our work and challenges we face.
He met with the US Department of State who assess efforts to deter poaching and trafficking of wildlife resources through wildlife protection policies, law enforcement, and criminal prosecution. They discussed with Freedom what is the role of non-governmental organizations, citizens, and private organisations in promoting and supporting wildlife protection.
Freedom then visited the Defenders of Wildlife – a major conservation organisation focused solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and safeguarding of biodiversity. They work on the ground at the state and local level to develop practical, innovative programs that restore key species and habits and informal national US policy work.