ZIMBABWE SIGNS LANDMARK AGREEMENT WITH AFRICA PARKS
(Posted 03rd November 2019)
The Zimbabwe delegation at the World Travel Market 2019, which opens in London on Monday morning, will have an additional story to tell, as they engage with the global tourism fraternity in their quest to bring more tourists to the southern African country.
African Parks has entered into a landmark agreement with the Zimbabwe government to manage the Matusadonha National Park, which covers an area of nearly 1.500 square kilometres from the Matusadonha mountains to the shores of Lake Kariba.
The national park was previously managed by Zimbabwe National Parks and the arrival of African Parks is expected to inject the latest methods of wildlife management and put this part of Zimbabwe on the global map.
This correspondent, during a recent visit to Zimbabwe on the occasion of attending the country’s annual tourism trade show #Sanganai2019 in Bulawayo, had the opportunity to visit the park while on a cruise on Lake Kariba.
Based for three nights and four days on the Sahwira Houseboat, a lake cruiser with 13 cabins and a crew of five, was a visit to the luxurious Changa Safari Camp on the programme – besides fishing excursions and game watching from the pontoon tender boats. The Changa Safari Camp is located inside the Matusadonha National Park and the visit allowed to hear more about this unique park from the staff at the camp, who shared the following information:
Matusadona National Park is located in Northern Zimbabwe and was formed in the late 1950’s. Matusadona was proclaimed a non-hunting area on the 7th pof November 1958 before being declared a Game Reserve in 1963 but only in 1975 did Matusadona become a National Park in its own right. Its vast area encompasses a combination of pristine and rugged wilderness, magical mountains and is home to an abundance of wildlife.
Back in the late 1950’s when Kariba Dam hydroelectric power station was being built and the dam wall constructed, the Kariba gorge was flooded and as it was home to thousands of animals along with the local Tonga people, relocation was required for the animals. Rupert Fothergill lead a wildlife rescue operation that lasted five years, calling it ‘Operation Noah’ Operation Noah saved over 6000 animals which were largely relocated to Matusadona National Park.
The Matusadona National Park, locally known as the ‘Matuzviadonha Hills’ stretch along the lakeshore between the Sanyati and Ume rivers. The word ‘Matuzviadonha’ means ‘falling dung’ and came from the common sightings of elephant dung seen rolling down the steep slopes on the escarpment.
Matusadona has three distinct ecological areas. First is the lake and shoreline grassland, second is the Zambezi Valley floor and the third is the Escarpment. The park spans out over 338,000 acres where the vegetation varies from beautiful mopane woodlands, acacia scrub, lakeshore waterfront and grassland and the famous ‘drowned’ forests Kariba is so well-known for.
Matusadona National Park is a wildlife-rich park. There are numerous species of predators living in the park which include lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah. There is an abundance of great tusker elephant, large herds of buffalo and a large variety of antelope that mostly frequent the lakes shoreline. Another common sighting seen whilst exploring this magical park are the hippos and crocodiles that reside in the cool waters of Lake Kariba or seen basking on the lakes sandy banks in the sunshine.
With over 350 species of birds, some of them endemic to the area, are birders too getting excellent value for their money, when using a lake cruise to tick their bird lists.
In reflection, no visit to Zimbabwe is complete without a stay on a houseboat on Lake Kariba. Catering on our boat was offering square meals from breakfast over lunch to dinner, all drinks during our stay included, and our crew put on a beachside BBQ one night which provided magic moments as, after nightfall one evening under the full moon, the starlight unfolded in the skies above. Lake cruises last from one night and two days to six nights – or more – and for those keen to fish can offer unique experiences as the lake cruise allows to explore several top fishing grounds in the comfort of a stay on board.
Meanwhile has Peter Fearnhead, the CEO of African Parks, shared the good news with www.ATCNews.org when he wrote:
|Agreement Signed with Government of Zimbabwe to Manage Matusadonha National Park|
|An elephant in Matusadonha National Park, Zimbabwe. © Scott Ramsay|
Dear ATCNews Readers,
I’m currently in Harare and am pleased to share that African Parks has just signed a 20-year agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe for the management of Matusadonha National Park. This is the 16th park to fall under our management, and the first within Zimbabwe. Matusadonha is a spectacular 1,470 km2 landscape, that stretches from the Matusadonha mountains down to the shores of Lake Kariba. Proclaimed a National Park in 1975, it was once a conservation stronghold for elephants, lions and black rhinos and a sought-after tourism destination. But inadequate resourcing led to rampant poaching that has decimated wildlife populations.
Today was significant in realising a shared vision to rehabilitate this landscape, and to unlock the ecological, social, and economic values this park has to offer.African Parks in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will implement management strategies to secure Matusadonha, restore its wildlife populations, boost tourism and promote socio-economic growth which will enable communities to derive long-term benefits. Zimbabwe has a strong history of conservation excellence, and it is our shared ambition that Matusadonha is revitalised as one of southern Africa’s leading protected areas.
With the addition of Matusadonha to the portfolio, our conservation management footprint now protects almost 11 million hectares across 10 countries. The Wyss Foundation, Oak Foundation and Stichting Natura Africae are strategic partners of African Parks contributing part of the operational support for Matusadonha’s management. We are deeply grateful to them, and to our new partners at Zimparks and are excited and optimistic about what this new partnership holds.Sincerely,
|Peter Fearnhead |