Bhejane Trust (Zimbabwe)
By Trevor Lane
BHEJANE TRUST WOULD LIKE TO CONVEY TO ALL OUT FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS OUR SUPPORT IN THIS DIFFICULT TIME, AND PLEASE STAY SECLUDED, SAFE AND WELL. WE ALSO EXTEND OUR SUPPORT TO ALL THE DEDICATED PARKS STAFF IN THE FIELD WHO ARE OPERATING DESPITE RISKS THEY MIGHT FACE.. MAY WE ALL COME OUT OF THIS IN THE END STRONGER!!
This is maybe the hardest newsletter I have had to put together. The month started as per normal, and in mid month I put a couple of articles into the draft newsletter, such as the article on fire. All was on track and we were planning our season preparations as normal. And then how the world changed!!!
All our plans went up in smoke as we faced a new, daunting challenge, and we are back to the drawing board! However, the Trust is still fully operational in the field, supporting Parks and ensuring all pumps and systems are functional for the upcoming dry season.
HOW WILL COVID-19 AFFECT OUR WILDLIFE?
There is a serious concern that our wildlife will be a collateral victim of the Covid-19 pandemic now raging through the world. Although the animals are not affected by the virus itself in any way, our concerns for the wildlife relate to various issues :
1 National Parks – they rely nearly 100% on the tourism and hunting market for their funding. With the total collapse of both markets, this leaves them with virtually no income. It is thus very uncertain how they will operate on the ground, let alone pay salaries. This is very unfortunate when you consider they had just got rid of their legacy debt, and the future was looking financially stronger for them. Parks hopefully might already be trying to work on a plan – even if it just to support the rangers, just to get them through this difficult period. However, I think it would take an international aid organization at this stage to bail out Parks at the moment. The NGO’s on the ground can try within their limits to alleviate the individual pressures on the stations, but they are also affected.
2 Many people fled the cities to the communal areas with the impending lockdown, where they felt they had a better chance of surviving in their rural homes. We now have a scenario of packed communal areas, with no food, no income to buy anything, and desperation setting in. There is no government support, so they will naturally turn to poaching as a means of survival. If we can continue to support Parks, we can contain this threat
3 With the tremendous economic impact this Covid-19 pandemic is going to have on the whole world, we can expect a drop in donor support, as they no longer have free funds available. This will severely hamper our operations when they are at their most critical stage, and we will have to carefully budget for what we can afford to support, and what we have to put on hold.
4 We have suspended our volunteer program, which we relied on for keeping Sinamatella afloat. Without the funding from the volunteers, we will have to severely curtail operations in Sinamatella, which will have a knock-on effect on all our other operations
Thus, with the tragic mayhem besetting the world now, unfortunately wildlife will, as always, have to take a back seat! We will have to do the best we can with limited resources to contain the damage. Lets hope we do not go as far back as 2008 when the wildlife was decimated, and which took us years to recover from. However, I do believe we are stronger now, and that Parks will maintain their integrity, and if we all work together, we will survive together, and keep our wildlife heritage intact for when the world stabilizes again!!