Take a Walk with the Scorpions of Hwange, on a luxury Zimbabwe safari!
It's not every day that you get to be at the sharp end of nature conservation! So when we got the chance to spend the morning with the Scorpions anti-poaching unit in Hwange National Park, we jumped at it. So if you are doing a luxury African safari in Zimbabwe we encourage you to do the same.
The Scorpions Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU) was created in 2008 to provide manpower and resources to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (ZPWMA) to reduce poaching on the boundary of Hwange National Park.
After a light breakfast and a much-needed cup of coffee at sunrise, we made our way to the Scorpions permanent camp at Wexcau, a 30 min drive from the lodge, close to the eastern boundary of the park.
On arrival, we were introduced to the small, carefully selected and well trained SAPU team who have been charged with protecting the wildlife of the region from poaching. They are paid, equipped and provided with food and housing by the project. In addition to this 7 man team, ZPWMA allocates between two and four park rangers to participate in patrols and are fed and housed by the project while on duty with the APU.
The team was excited that we wanted to be a part of their "normal" day and assist them on a standard patrol rather than take them away from their work, which can often be the case with these sorts of interactions.
The plan for the morning was to walk a grid 20km south of the camp that had not been checked for some time, looking for snares and other poaching activity. This is not a normal a guided safari walk where you stay in single file behind your guide following established game trails. On a patrol, you walk side by side with a 3 to 5-meter gape between each person and you try as best you can to walk in a straight line regardless of the terrain.
We covered close to 8km walking at a brisk pace [good exercise!] and found 5 (thankfully very old) non-functioning wire snares. Each snare was manually and digitally cataloged, geotagged, photographed and documented in terms of structure and set up before being removed.
It was amazing to see the detail in which they also recorded not only the snares, but every animal interaction and landmark that we encountered. Waterholes were geotagged and documented in terms of the percentage of water and recent animal activity. All the information that is recorded is sent to a research center in the UK for analysis.
While the Scorpions have made a monumental difference to curbing poaching in this area, it continues relentlessly in other parts of Hwange. The SAPU are entirely privately funded, mostly by the Wilderness Trust, Wilderness Safaris, Panthera and SATIB. Just by staying at Davison's, Little Makalolo or Linkwasha camps in Hwange National Park you are making a substantial contribution to the needs of the SAPU team. From Conservation Safari Companies’ point of view, we want our clients to be aware that we know this operation personally, and we like to support these camps and send people there. Not only are they making a difference with anti-poaching, water supply for wildlife, employment of staff at Ngamo Village and starting self-employment initiatives at Ngamo, they run superb camps in the best game-viewing area of the park. You can help support and protect Hwange's wildlife by visiting http://www.wildernesstrust.com/donate/
Enjoy a luxury Zimbabwe safari, have a look at our Zimbabwe safari itineraries here