Wildlife Ambassador First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has saluted the country’s game rangers for raising the country’s flag high after scooping the World Commission on Protected Areas, International Ranger Award.
The country’s Anti-Poaching Tracking Specialists (ATS) won the award last year presented at the Africa Protected Area Congress in Rwanda.
The previous year Bryce Clemence, co-founder of ATS, was also given the Best Game Ranger in Africa award by the Game Rangers Association of Africa, for the Rhino Conservation Awards.
These awards recognise excellence in the field of wildlife management.
It was all pomp and fanfare during celebrations of the awards as the rangers performed some of their drills much to the amusement and applause of guests.
Dr Mnangagwa presented plaques for the prestigious awards at Mushandike Wildlife College in Masvingo last weekend.
The First Lady hailed the rangers for being vigilant in protecting the country’s wildlife.
“Rangers are the frontline custodians of our country’s wildlife, working in difficult and dangerous conditions, against poachers and also wild animals.”
“We rely on their courage and dedication to maintain a healthy ecosystem for wildlife and for people. The expertise of these women and men is skilled and diverse, supporting species, habitat, communities and ecosystems,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa said rangers should be saluted as they are protectors, environmental educators, community liaison officers, and wildlife monitors, data researchers and much more.
The First Lady highlighted that as Zimbabwe’s wildlife and environment patron, her work will take her around the country on awareness campaigns. That will include animal behaviour learnings, community exchange visits, consolidation initiatives for human wildlife conflict victims and campfire initiative agendas, among other activities.
“I am proud to share the inspirational efforts of progressive action in conservation of wildlife in Zimbabwe. Climate change and biodiversity loss are part of an interlinked threat that the world is facing today. We have but one earth, and Zimbabweans every day, are making our impact, to protect species of global significance,” said Dr Mnangagwa.
The First Lady said ATS commitment to their work in conservation was evident.
“I applaud your efforts, and congratulate you on winning the IUCN, World Commission on Protected Areas, International Ranger award. The funds from this recognition have gone directly back into improving the facilities of your anti-poaching unit, which is as we speak, just being completed with improved building works for the growing dog unit.”
“Collaborative efforts are essential on the front lines of conservation.”
Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa
“I am here in Masvingo province with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, and officially present to you this plaque, to recognise and acknowledge your extraordinary courage and service,” said Dr Mnangagwa.
The First Lady congratulated Bryce Clemence, Lara Clemence, the ATS ranger family and their remarkable dogs, for contributing towards the country’s wildlife and wild spaces.
Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira thanked the First Lady for taking an opportunity to interact with rangers.
Minister Chadzamira hailed Amai Mnangagwa for being a champion in wildlife conservation that she is leaving no one and no place behind becoming the only First Lady to have visited Mushandike Wildlife area under Chief Bere area both pre and post-independence.
“As small as Mushandike National Park is, you have humbled yourself to come and celebrate the award with rangers,” he said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Barbra Rwodzi thanked the First Lady for taking her precious time to interface with rangers and being a champion of wildlife conservation.
“Collaborative efforts are essential on the front lines of conservation. We are proud to be working together with ATS, and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership as custodians of our wildlife,” she said.
A ranger also pledged commitment to continue protecting the country’s wildlife.
“I want to thank Amai Mnangagwa for her vigorous campaigns against poaching. This has pushed us to work an extra mile as we feel supported. We will continue doing our best in protecting the country’s precious wildlife,” said the ranger.
Anti-poaching Tracking Specialists is an award-winning rhino protection, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking, security organisation.
It is the contracted rhino monitoring and Special Species Protection Unit for the Save Valley Conservancy, and one of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s key partners on the ground in the Masvingo province.
They recently completed training at ZimParks Chipinge Safari Area and are still supporting.
ATS was initially formed in 2010, in reaction to the countrywide, rhino poaching surge, as a training organisation to support ZimParks with rangers in Intensive Protection Zones for wildlife.
They have trained hundreds of rangers for anti-poaching units in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They are regarded as having created one of the best operating Malinois canine units in Southern Africa with 11 Malinois and now 4 puppies in training.
April 2023 will mark 11 years in the Savé Valley Conservancy. In this time, ATS has been credited with over 189 years of prison sentences for rhino poachers, putting a significant barrier against crime syndicates.
Working together with Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimparks, they have arrested some of the country’s most notorious poachers and others from the region.
They have also dismantled critical network pathways and infiltrated vital communication channels that have been devastating to the rhino population and other protected species in Zimbabwe.