Sapi Restoration

In Zimbabwe, the Great Plains Foundation is securing an extensive section of the fragile, depleted landscape that is an essential piece of the larger Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve and the Mana-Sapi-Chewore Unesco World Heritage Site.

The landscape restoration efforts in Zimbabwe follow in the footsteps of these efforts in Selinda, Botswana. In early 2017 Great Plains Conservation was awarded the 290,000 acre Sapi Safari Area to conserve and manage. Hunted since 1957 this important area of Zimbabwe is set on the Zambezi River and borders Mana Pools National Park. It forms the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Middle-Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.

Goal

The goal of the Sapi Restoration Initiative is to restore a depleted landscape through strategic protections, a comprehensive conservation plan, and the establishment of sustainable tourism practices.

Approach

The Sapi Restoration Initiative is the most complicated and comprehensive Great Plains has taken on to date. Working with teams of world renowned experts, the Great Plains strategy for Zimbabwe includes developing basic infrastructure, roads and communications systems, a strategic wildlife management plan that include anti-poaching and eventually species reintroduction, a comprehensive flora and fauna survey, and of course opening the concession up to photographic tourism; all with a single goal in mind: to restore and protect this essential ecosystem.

With Great Plains Conservation (GPC) taking over the lease on the Sapi Concession, we will have a responsibility to implement a wildlife crime prevention and monitoring plan, that requires a team who will work alongside Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks). With only a maximum of seven ZimParks rangers currently in place, it is impossible to police an expanse of land that covers an area of approximately 118000 hectares. There will be need for a much greater number of “boots on the ground” in order to successfully patrol and safeguard the wildlife that inhabit Sapi. In order to do this, GPC will have to employ their own wildlife monitoring plan in place in conjunction with a formal MOU with ZimParks. This effort will require essential equipment to facilitate their activities, from vehicles to basic patrolling equipment as well as support to the ZimParks rangers.

Sapi covers a diverse and variable part of the lower Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe and is currently a plant reservoir for the whole area due to the low densities of large herbivores and also is a future recovery/ sink area for expanding large herbivores from neighbouring safari and national parks areas (including Lower Zambezi NP in Zambia).

Part of our concession obligation is to ensure that we have clear and sound conservation objectives that will not only positively influence the planned tourism operations but will also underpin the very success of such future operations.

There are three main components to the conservation plan:

  • Establish area integrity – this will link to the wildlife crime prevention objective
  • Establish baseline vegetation and wildlife diversity – this will link directly to the wildlife and plant monitoring objective
  • Plan to re-introduce wildlife, including endangered black rhino into a secure rhino sanctuary, this will link directly to the objective of re-establishing key wildlife populations

The Sapi Restoration initiative represents large landscape conservation at its best; combining best practices in land management and sound business principals through the tourism.

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