Parks to cough up US$1m for Grace’s animal sanctuary

AS part of security measures to make it suitable for habitation by the “big five” animals, the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority would have to fork out at least US$1 million to fence Manzou Estate in Mazowe, where First Lady Grace Mugabe is setting up a private wildlife sanctuary.

Hazel Ndebele

This comes after Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere last week said that the National Parks had taken control of Manzou farm, formerly known as Arnold Farm, and would soon be translocating the “big five” animals from other sanctuaries to Mugabe’s private game park.

Kasukuwere said the authority would soon be bringing the big five (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes) to Manzou, despite a High Court order stopping the evictions of more than 200 families in the area.

Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairperson Johnny Rodrigues this week said the big five needed high security fencing, which would cost at least US$1 million per 2 000 hectares.

Manzou farm, where 200 families were evicted to make way for the private game park, is estimated to cover over 1 800 hectares.
Rodrigues said two layers of fence would be required for the area to accommodate the big five.

This would put a further strain on the parks authority, which was allocated US$4 539 450 in the 2015 budget.
“Double fencing is needed for such dangerous animals and there has to be three metres in between the fences, with the other being electrified,” he said.

“What I can tell you is it’s very expensive to acquire the fence as it is not ordinary fencing; about 16 lines of wire would be needed from top to bottom although it is still possible for the big five to tear the fence,” Rodrigues said, adding that this would pose a great danger to villagers in the surrounding area.

He questioned where National Parks would get funding to undertake such a huge operation as they are already struggling.

“It doesn’t make sense that National Parks has been failing to pay workers but they want to fence a private wildlife sanctuary; where are they going to get the money from?”

In addition to the financial crunch, the authority faces transport, fuel and staffing problems. Contacted for comment, National Parks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo asked for questions to be e-mailed to her, but had not responded by the time of going to print.

Rodrigues said Manzou farm is not fit for the big five as Mazowe is highly populated by people meaning such animals could pose serious danger to humans.

“Government should consult ecologists to get advice on which animals are fit for such a place. Animals such as impala, kudu and zebra would be more suitable as they are less harmful.”

One of the villagers facing eviction at Manzou farm, Aspinas Makufa said they have been living in the open and life is more difficult due to the incessant rains.

Makufa also said National Parks had on Tuesday brought zebras which have been destroying their crops.

“The National Parks brought zebras on Tuesday and they have been destroying our crops and even if we are not evicted, we would not harvest anything,” said Makufa.

On Tuesday, police joined the National Parks team which has been camped at the farm since last week. The police, like the parks authority officers, pitched tents close to where the villagers are staying in plastic shacks.

“Takangoona mapurisa auya musi weTuesday and vakaisa matents avo (police came on Tuesday and pitched their tents). Hapana zvavarikutaura, takangotarisana navo (They are not saying or doing much),” said Makufa.

Police demolished properties at Manzou a fortnight ago despite a court order last year. The demolitions only stopped last week on Monday after the High Court granted a provisional order barring the evictions as directed by last year’s court order.