Yesterday I returned from Zimbabwe with a slightly heavy heart after leading my last supporters’ tour as Chief Executive of SPANA.
We were a 26-strong group, made up of staff, volunteers and loyal SPANA supporters. The tour itself was a mixture of visiting SPANA clinics to see some of the amazing work that our vets do first hand and enjoying some of the sights and wildlife that Zimbabwe offers.
We initially flew to Victoria Falls and spent a day there before convening with the SPANA mobile clinic in Lupane, on the way to Hwange. On arrival, there were hundreds of donkeys lined up to receive rabies vaccinations, and to be treated for any other issues that might be causing them suffering.
For two nights, we stayed in the Hwange National Park, witnessing first-hand the impact that the drought has had, especially on the elephant population. Although Zimbabwe has the second biggest population of elephants in Africa, around 80,000, lions have taken to killing baby calves (who may be weakened through lack of sufficient milk) and poaching continues to claim many of these majestic animals.
After the Hwange National Park, we travelled to the Matopas reserve, and were lucky to see some of the white rhinos that Aware Trust (our amazing partners in Zimbabwe) have been dehorning to protect them from poachers. Unfortunately, rhino horn is currently fetching $65,000 per kilogram.
The next day we travelled to see the mobile clinic in action at Gweru; a peri-urban environment where animals are in a much poorer condition. There is an awful lot of work to be done here, extending beyond just vet treatments, to education and community development.
After Gweru we embarked upon a long trip to Harare, where we attended the opening of the ‘Wild About Animals’ exhibition at the Lion and Cheetah Park, just outside the city. It was opened by the Principle Director of Veterinary Services and designed by Diana Hulme, and Felicity Price-Smith. All of the electronics, printing and construction was undertaken by local craftsmen, who did a first rate job. Visitors, supporters and members of the media were very enthusiastic and flattering about the exhibition, and local schools are booked in to visit and learn about their local animals the next day and well beyond.
It has been a great honour to travel with so many generous supporters of the charity over the yea
rs on these supporter tours, and I want to take this opportunity to thank each of them for their kindness, good humour and fantastic company.