The habitat in the Delta is exceptional, Coutada 11 being a relatively small area (a million acres) with swamp, flood plain, tropical savannah, miombo woodland and sand forest. This diversity really lends itself to prime game country.
Recently we have had poachers come and hand in their own traps for reward, they claim it isn’t worth the risk of being caught and risking the villages privileges.
Around 2001 we started a meat distribution program, of the animals we shot, choice cuts were taken for camp, the balance was split, 50% went to our staff and 50% went to the local community.
We took this one step further and campaigned government to issue a community quota of the more common animals. Today that quota sits at 50 reedbuck and 1 buffalo. We shoot this on their behalf and deliver the whole animal to them.
A mobile corn mill is another of our efforts to assist and retain a good relationship. It has to be a two way street. If our unit arrests poachers from a particular village, we meet with the elders and discuss the issue, the norm is for the villages meat allocation and milling privileges to be suspended for a few months.
Our motor bike unit is a quick reaction unit. It consists of 5 bush bikes with 4 rangers and Craig. They are able to follow foot paths and access areas that you can normally only get to on foot. They are also able to cover a very big area in a day. Another advantage of this unit is that if a PH sees any sign of poaching he can radio in and within 30 minutes the unit can be deployed.
This unit, whilst effective, comes at rather a large cost – salaries, vehicles, fuel and equipment all add to it. To date, many of our clients and notably SCI – Hill Country chapter have assisted us with donations. Last year we held our first anti-poaching fund raiser. We auctioned off items donated by our clients and friends. Their kindness and generosity was overwhelming, and many articles were sold above cost price. We were able to raise $49 000-00.