Zimbabwe: Conservation and the community
I’ve always been passionate about the environment and biodiversity. I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and really loved the wildlife and the natural environment when I was living there. It’s something that has never really left me and my recent trip to Zimbabwe, my first visit to the African continent in over 40 years, reinforced my desire to get more involved in protecting the natural environment in Africa.
I wanted to share my experiences following the time I recently spent with ALERT (The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust) and Wildlife Encounter in Zimbabwe. I was there to document, through photography, all the good work that ALERT does. I spent my time in a place called ‘Fuller Forest’, which is located near Victoria Falls. Fuller Forest acts as a buffer zone between the Zambezi National Park and local community land, which means the team at ALERT play an important role in helping manage human-wildlife conflict.
My visit reinforced three things: It’s given me a much stronger appreciation of nature and the importance and complexity of biodiversity; It’s brought me closer to how renewable energy can really change lives (we often get lost in this when we talk about the energy transition) and it has reinforced how important education is to bring everyone much closer to nature.
A quick introduction to the non-profit organisation I was working with
ALERT is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of the African lion and the ecosystems on which the species rely on. However, I quickly learnt that ALERT has a muti-disciplinary approach to conservation, where they study the full eco-system from flora to fauna. And as part of their multi-disciplinary approach, ALERT works with surrounding communities that lie alongside protected areas and often suffer from conflicts with wildlife – working with local communities to mitigate wild animal attacks on livestock is another important part of ALERT’s work. And then there’s conservation education to reinforce the importance of conservation and the environment with young children. This also involves working with teachers and community leaders on the importance of caring for wildlife and the natural environment. ALERT is also involved in other research projects – they began giraffe research in Zambezi National Park in 2017 and are also involved in researching lions in Chizarira National Park.
I was involved in a range of assignments and my specific role was to document everything through photography for ALERT. This included bird surveys, documenting camera trap research (one camera picked up a leopard), snare trap searches (unfortunately poaching is still an issue) and nocturnal species surveys – it’s quite amazing to see spotted eagle owls at night – they are very large! You begin to appreciate the importance of our natural environment and biodiversity. And then we spent time in the local community learning first-hand, and documenting through photography, some of the human-wildlife challenges, alongside learning about ALERT’s education focus.