Saving the treasures of Matopos

By Mhlomuli Ncube

VARIOUS stakeholders have teamed up to end human-wildlife conflict and depletion of the country’s World Heritage Site, Matopos National Park.

The Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres south of Bulawayo.

A treasure of flora, fauna, wildlife, rock paintings and great landscapes, the park remains an area of national spiritual significance, with locals having always been involved in its upkeep.

However, there are problems of domestic animals finding their way into the park and wild animals from the park also making their way to surrounding human settlements.

Seeking a permanent solution with its conservation partners, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has gone on a very intensive fencing drive to protect the sanctuary.

“We know the value of protecting the animals here. The villagers have always been involved in that endeavour also because this place dates back to pre-historic times. What we are basically doing is to safeguard both the wildlife and domestic animals by fencing this whole area,” said Mr Evans Mabiza from Rowaan Adventure Park.

Mr Neil Rex from Matopos Conservation Society explained what he referred to as phase one of the project which seeks to erect a 15km stretch of fencing to protect the northern frontier.

“We find this to be a worthy cause. Remember how we worked hard for the heritage site status to this place. It is therefore important to preserve it and we aim for 15km stretch of fencing to be erected first,” he explained.

Despite human-wildlife conflict incidents, the villagers are happy to be part of this conservation scheme.

“The fence will save our livestock from being impounded by the Parks and also prevent wild animals from coming to the villages where they might be hunted down, so it is a blessing for both the domestic and the wild,” noted Headman Mkhwanazi from Mkhokha Village.

Zimparks Spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said as an authority they are convinced they will score big through the erection of this man-made buffer which has also created employment for the villagers who are working on the project.

“The most important thing is to create a situation where everyone is happy and takes responsibility. The villagers are our partners in that search for harmony that benefits both nature and human,” he said.