When we began working in Bangweulu in 2008, park and village scouts employed by the Community Resource Boards lacked equipment and training and were paid less than the minimum wage; and boats and vehicles were largely unavailable. These challenges precluded scouts from conducting effective, extensive, and frequent patrols. More often than not, hard-to-reach areas went unpatrolled. From 2008 onward, law enforcement has focused on recruiting, equipping and training personnel to optimise their deployment and efficacy. In 2014, an anti-poaching equestrian unit was established to help rangers navigate challenging terrain. This unit significantly increased patrol coverage and distance and allowed scouts to access areas that were previously inaccessible. More recently, we increased our aerial surveillance programme by securing a designated pilot.
By strategically recruiting and training law enforcement officers, we and our partners have brought poaching under control. Poaching has consistently decreased, allowing the endemic black lechwe to experience a remarkable comeback. In a matter of five years, populations increased from 35,000 to more than 50,000 individuals. Law enforcement training is ongoing: in 2018 six rangers were trained to become medics and in 2019, 34 rangers passed Basic Field Ranger training.
A fishing ban has been implemented during the spawning season to allow fish stocks time to recover. Close collaboration with the community leadership, along with monitoring by law enforcement officials and village scouts, has resulted in community adherence to the annual ban and improved yields have already been reported.
In 12 years, Bangweulu has transformed. Working with the six Community Resource Boards (CRB) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), we have brought poaching under control, allowing wildlife populations to rebound. And collaborative programmes with local communities ensure that Bangweulu’s resources are sustainably harvested in a way that benefits people and wildlife.
Through community engagement and educational programmes, we have helped communities appreciate links between wildlife conservation and sustainable livelihoods. As a result, unsustainable fishing, poaching and illegal tree cutting for charcoal have decreased. By purchasing new equipment and expanding infrastructure and training, we have allowed staff to become more effective in their work. A results-driven incentive scheme helps employees remain motivated, as does the fact that we promote staff from within when they demonstrate leadership potential.
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