By Priscilla Kamurira
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has engaged celebrities as they up the ante in the on going anti-poaching drive.
Among those selected to be the faces of the campaign are Jah Prayzah, high-flying Selmor Mtukudzi and popular ZBC-TV news anchor Rumbidzai Takawira.
The trio joins Hollywood star Danai Gurira, who has been the most famous celebrity from Zimbabwe on the campaign.
Internationally, ZimParks in partnership with Wildaid have engaged big brands like Jackie Chan, David Beckam and Prince William among others. to push the message of wildlife conservation.
The campaign is running worldwide under the theme “Poaching Steals from Us All”.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said his organisation is trying to elevate the profile of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe and the sustainable utilisation of the country’s resources. He also emphasised the cultural and economic importance of wildlife as well as the destructive nature of illegal wildlife trafficking.
“We also want to promote our parks estate to domestic and regional tourist markets. So the use of these celebrities will ensure that all these things are achieved because in their own right, for example, Danai Gurira and Jah Prayzah — have huge followings.
“So if people associated with our conservation, if people can relate with our management of wildlife, it shows that we are serious about sustainable utilisation of our resources. It shows that we are serious about attracting more tourists to our country,” said Mr Farawo.
Mr Farawo said tourism in Zimbabwe is wildlife based, therefore when wildlife is thriving, tourism will also thrive.
“For our wildlife to thrive, we need to do a lot of awareness campaigns and this is part of these campaigns to ensure that our people appreciate the value that is attached to these animals.
“Our people must see these animals as economic opportunities because they will be benefiting, jobs will be created. That is why we need to create a lot of awareness and publicity around that so that people know that animals are important,” he said.
Mr Farawo said ZimParks is using its partnership with celebrities to reach a bigger and wider audience.
“This campaign will also promote Zimbabwe as a preferred destination not only internationally, but also domestically.
“You see that most people who come to visit our parks are international tourists. We need to continue on that trajectory But we also need to encourage our people to visit our parks, to know what we have to offer as a country because everyone is a spokesperson for the country, everyone is an ambassador for Zimbabwe, everyone is an ambassador for ZimParks, so that we can all achieve the dream of creating an upper middle income economy by 2030 in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s vision,” he said.
The ZimParks spokesperson singled out his boss, Mr Fulton Mangwanya, for bringing the partnerships into fruition.
“All these partnerships are made possible through the visionary leadership of Mr Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya, the director general of ZimParks.
“More people are coming, we are looking forward to having more partnerships with private players and with individuals so that we can all sustainably conserve our wildlife for the benefit of not just this current generation but also the future generations,” said Mr Farawo.
One of the ambassadors,Ms Takawira, said her role in the anti-poaching campaign has opened her eyes.
“I believe it is our mandate to spread the message of protecting our wildlife heritage. It plays a big part in our tourism industry, which can be a huge foreign currency earner for our country.
“Our first trip with the campaign took us to Gonarezhou, the second largest national park in Zimbabwe. It was disheartening to hear that there were no rhinos there. However, it was encouraging to hear that conservation efforts being made through the ZimParks partnership with Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Gonarezhou Trust will see rhinos being re-introduced into the national park, which is evidence that it is possible, through concerted efforts and awareness campaigns like this one, to protect our wildlife,” she said.
“We will be going across the country visiting wildlife areas and talking to people in communities that live in these areas, who are directly affected by wildlife as rising cases of human-wildlife conflict are being reported.
“It is imperative that we work together in conscientising the people about the importance of our wildlife and how these conflicts can be managed and resolved without resorting to poaching. It’s all about keeping a healthy balance and ensuring our big five species do not go extinct,” she said. Sunday Mail