During our time at Sango Wildlife Park we learned about the ecology of the area. The way in which the rangers and their families live, and how exhaustively rangers are vetted and chosen from the local population. If they pass the careful scrutiny this provides a comparatively well-paid job and training opportunities for members of a country where there is 95% unemployment.
We were completely puzzled by the calm acceptance of this situation, blackouts for at least 13 hours a day, but the idea of a general uprising of the population would be met by massive genocide as the only people who are resourced militarily are the rulers of the country. Essentially, they are trapped.
Yet the people we meet in the streets are gentle, philosophical and friendly and try hard to find ways to gain US dollars as their own currency is inflating by the hour and exchange rates are unpredictable.
Their Zimbabwe $ was going at a rate of $4 Zim to $1US. But by the time we left a month later it had risen to $5 Zim to $1 US. As of four days ago the official rate is now $12 Zim to $1US. Yet locals will now be jailed if they transact in $US. Chaos reigns.
People are intensely artistic and creative; the culture is one of family and community support. There is a very prominent tradition of sculpture, evident in the markets and along main roads.
Sculptures on display and for sale in Harare and Victoria Falls.
Using Kudu horns and porcupine quills to make lamp shades. Locally made jewellery.
Next time I visit Zimbabwe I hope to acquire one of these amusing bird baths. And the use of little timber offcuts as components of a chandelier is remarkable.
A shortage of food creates innovativeness. Here the locals in rural areas trap and cook the tiny finches called Queleas which turn up in plague proportions to eat crops.
A dedicated group of locals who understand the importance of tourism to the country do all they can to educate the young about conserving their animals and the environment. In some areas entire neighbourhoods enjoy the employment and benefits of tourism. The safari camps in various conservancies and national parks appreciate how important tourism is to local people.
In Victoria Falls, despite the huge queues of cars lining up for petrol and the blackouts that last for over 13 hours a day there are people employed and looking fresh and happy. The barter system works well but what does the future hold?
Author: Michele Cotton. BVSc, BSc (Vet), MVPHMgt, Dip. Int. Animal Health
Director Veterinary Careers