PRESIDENT Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe is willing to share its heritage and beauty with the world and will, therefore, welcome all tourists with open arms. In a statement released after meeting representatives of two key conservation organisations — Tikki Hywood Foundation and Akashinga — last week, President Mnangagwa said global support and greater understanding of the new Zimbabwe will help to communicate the change that the new administration intends to implement.
Tikki Hywood Foundation is a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), which raises awareness on the conservation of lesser-known endangered species, especially pangolins. However, Akashinga (the brave ones) is the brainchild of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), which empowers previously disadvantaged women protect wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting.
“As we enter into this historic new era for Zimbabwe, we are proud to share our heritage and the beauty of our nation with the world. On behalf of all Zimbabweans, I would like to invite people to visit our great country, for you will be welcomed with open arms,” President Mnangagwa said.
“This is a very significant moment in Zimbabwe’s history and we understand that we have a lot of work to do in ensuring the protection of our natural resources. Global support and greater understanding of the new Zimbabwe will go a long way towards communicating the change that we are committed to seeing here in our country. I am delighted to have had the privilege to see our revered and mythical pangolin up close, and to shine a light on the positive results that we are seeing here in Zimbabwe in the conservation of the species,” he said.
Tikki Hywood Foundation has been working with other Government arms such as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate; Ministry of Justice; National Prosecuting Authority; ZRP (Minerals and Border Control Unit; and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) on eliminating the illegal trafficking of pangolins. It is believed that Zimbabwe has one of the highest conviction rates of pangolin-related crimes within Africa.
Photographic images by Africa-based photographer Adrian Steirn — who is doing a photographic series called “Pangolin Men” — of Zimbabwean pangolin and the men who care for them recently grabbed world attention. President Mnangagwa also applauded the efforts of Akashinga, to which her daughter Tariro is a member, for actively empowering women to make a positive contribution to their communities through protecting both wildlife and the environment.
“I am also proud to recognise the women rangers of the Akashinga project, whom, my daughter Tariro met late last year. Women will play a vital role in the rebuilding of Zimbabwe. Through this programme, women are being empowered to make a positive contribution to their communities and to protect our precious wildlife. We salute their bravery and commitment.
“Conservation and tourism go hand in hand and my Government is committed to ensuring the safety of visitors and to working with partners to increase our conservation efforts to protect our natural world. We undertake this commitment not just for the people of Zimbabwe, but to allow people around the world to experience one of the most beautiful countries in Africa,” he said.
Through Akashinga’s model, 70 percent of the operational costs go directly back into the community, thereby “turning a security need into a community project”. Zimparks public relations manager Mr Tinashe Farawo said they were happy with the support they were getting from the President.
“As an authority we are happy with the support we are getting from the highest office in the land. We are going to ensure that we sustainably utilise our wildlife for the benefit of Zimbabweans in line with the President’s vision. Akashinga is doing complementary work in protecting our wildlife for sustainable use. To ensure that communities benefit from the resources near them through employment creation, schools and roads,” he said.
Government has since signalled that it will review the conservation policy of the old administration, particularly with regard to the export of elephants from Zimbabwe. In a statement released after the President’s meeting with the two organisations, Chief Advisor to the President Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said the country might revise the “conservation decisions of the previous dispensation”.
“In light of the recent export of elephants from Zimbabwe, the Government is reviewing conservation decisions of the previous dispensation and formulating a policy to move forward,” he said.