Arnold Tshipa is the champion heading up our environmental analysis in Zimbabwe. We were hoping to catch up with him on our recent trip to Hwange this last month, but he was on his well-earned ‘days off’. Instead, we had a chat to Cynthia Ndiweni who assists Arnold as much as possible. given that she doubles as a trainee manager at Makalolo Camp.
Using the commercial element of tourism to fund the preservation of the wild and natural areas where we have camps, Wilderness is able to honour its mission of being a conservation company. The key areas highlighted in the reporting revolve around managing roads, fire-breaks, recording daily temperatures (min and max), water levels in the pans and inevitably, the matter of poaching.
There certainly have been some incidents of poaching recorded in and around the two concession areas that Wilderness manages in Hwange. Foot patrols and fly-camps are set up to track and monitor any incursions from poachers and just a presence has a heedful impact on criminals. All activities are overseen and closely monitored by Arnold and his team.
Cynthia is not only very interested in environmental studies, she also has a degree in forestry and wildlife management. Working at Wilderness she is able to live in the bush whilst putting her skills to work assisting Arnold and at the same time learning camp management.
Matters of environmental importance now are the diminishing water levels in the pans as we move into the dry winter season. Temperatures are becoming cooler in the early mornings and evenings with the lowest recorded at 4oC and the highest in the mid afternoon was around 40oC. That is quite a contrast – but when the thick of winter hits in June and July, the lows can drop to a record minus 14oC! That is frightful – if you are travelling at this time, pack well!
Fire breaks have been cut and a programme is in place to grade the roads to smooth out the dips caused by rain puddles during the wet season. It is not uncommon to see terrapins or waterfowl swimming around in these puddles in late December or January. Roads also act as firebreaks when the surrounding grasses die off and the bush shrivels to russet browns in hibernation waiting for the summer rains to arrive.
The environmental management is directly dependant on the support from our guests – by travelling to these areas, guests have a hand in contributing to preserving wild places in Africa.