Future of conservancy bleak: white farmers

via Future of conservancy bleak: white farmers 29/10/2014

ABOUT 20 white farmers in the Save Valley conservancy have expressed concern over its management by the Department of Parks and Wildlife saying they doubt the department has the capacity to run the sanctuary alone effectively.

The Save Valley conservancy is located some 80km east of Masvingo. It boasts of a rich array of wildlife.

But the world-acclaimed sanctuary has been under threat from ruling Zanu PF supporters who invaded the conservancy under the government’s controversial land reforms.

Two years ago, senior Zanu PF officials awarded themselves 25-year leases. The leases were however cancelled after the intervention of President Robert Mugabe himself.

Earlier this year, Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere announced the Department of Parks and Wildlife was taking over the operations of the conservancies.

But a former chairman of the Save Valley conservancy, Clive Stockhill, said they hoped that the conservancy will not collapse like the other conservancies that the Parks had taken over in the past.

“If Parks plays a gatekeepers’ role, I do not mind, but we just hope and pray that Save Valley will not end up like other safaris that the Parks has taken over,” Stockhill, of Senuko Ranch, said.

Stockhill said the conservancy had witnessed massive vandalism and poaching which had resulted in international hunters shunning the sanctuary in favour of their regional competitors.

He said the sanctuary now requires at least $4.2 million to rebuild the damaged 360km electrified double fence adding that if the wildlife department tables their plans on the conservancy they can work together to rebuild the sanctuary.

“Because of the 2000 disturbances and mainly the recent invasions by Zanu PF chefs, we lost a lot of business.

“During this period all hunting bookings were cancelled and this has also affected the country’s tourism revenue,” he said.

He said a few farmers were given permits that expire in December this year and the future of the next hunting season remains bleak as most hunters book in January.

Among the conservancies in Save Valley are Harmond, Zambezi Hunters, Humani, Makore, Savuli, Sango, Musaizi, Chishakwe, Matendere, Gunundwi, Mapare and Nyangambe which is home to a wide range of wildlife species including the big five.

“The parks department should table their plans to us so that we can map the way forward together for this conservancy to survive but as things are standing honestly we do not know what the future has in store for us,” he said.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Wildlife and Parks Department spokesperson, Caroline Washayamombe, were fruitless as her phone went unanswered.