WildArk Announces Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy in Zambia

WildArk is excited to announce its latest biodiversity project in the Lower Zambezi region of Zambia, the Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy, in partnership with Zambian Wildlife Warriors (ZWW) and the Rufunsa Community.

Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy is WildArk’s fourth biodiversity project, following Pridelands in South Africa, Tuke Rainforest Conservancy in Papua New Guinea and Grizzly Plains in Alaska, USA.

Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy will focus on protecting and rehabilitating 29,000 ha of Rufunsa Community land that resides in a Game Management Area of the Rufunsa Municipality, approximately 140km east of Lusaka. The new conservancy forms a vital unfenced buffer zone to the north of the Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP).

The initial stage of the project was the acquisition of 1,000ha of land within the conservancy from the Rufunsa community. This land will be used to establish an anti-poaching training centre led by ZWW, as well as a scientific camp and a boma for the reintroduction of wildlife.

WildArk and the Zambian Wildlife Warriors are working in partnership with the Rufunsa Community. © Jonas Kunda

This particular parcel of land sits above the mountains that fall into the Zambezi Valley, where the vegetation is lush with tropical forests and grasslands. Once teeming with big game that roamed up the hills from the Lower Zambezi National Park to escape the summer heat, the area, like much of Zambia, has been decimated by hunting, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Zambian Wildlife Warriors was founded by a passionate conservationist from Australia, Luke Arnold, and Zambian local, Jonas Kunda. Arnold had been searching for many years for the perfect location to establish such a project. After working throughout Africa, he recognised the need for rehabilitation, reintroduction and community engagement and awareness in Zambia. He reached out to his old friend and work colleague Jonas Kunda to join him on this journey, and Zambian Wildlife Warriors was formed.

Arnold and Kunda approached WildArk in 2017 for assistance in establishing an effective anti-poaching team in Zambia, which would in turn help create a haven that would bring wildlife back to this area. Through that conversation, WildArk, Zambian Wildlife Warriors and the Rufunsa Community established the Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy to reintroduce game, assist in building an anti-poaching training, introduce a wildlife rehabilitation and reintroduction centre, conduct ecological research and provide job opportunities and education for the local community.

WildArk and the Zambia Wildlife Warriors are hoping to see the return of the rhino to the Rufunsa area in the near future. © Adobe Stock

Founder of WildArk, Mark Hutchinson said, “Having visited the Lower Zambezi Valley many times, when we received the call from Luke and Jonas, we were excited to see what this project was about. After visiting the site with Jonas and meeting the Rufunsa Community in April of this year, it was clear how special this place is and what an amazing vision the project has. WildArk is thrilled to be part of the project and looks forward to building a long-term model with the community.”

Mark Hutchinson during his trip to Zambia with the Deputy Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Services and Mr Peter Banda from the Ministry of Tourism at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Services HQ in Lusaka.

Co-Founder of Zambian Wildlife Warriors, Jonas Kunda said, “It is a dream come true to be launching Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy in partnership with WildArk and the Rufunsa Community. The area surrounding the Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy is particularly significant in terms of biodiversity. We are very passionate about creating the best and most effective anti-poaching team in Zambia to allow all manner of species from buffalo to rhino to elephants to return and flourish in this natural sanctuary.”

John Hardman, WildArk CEO explained that this project offers significant scope to make an ongoing difference in the local community and to the surrounding biodiversity. “The Rufunsa Rhino Conservancy is an opportunity for WildArk to partner with two dedicated conservationists in Jonas and Luke, as well as to join forces with the Rufunsa Community and other partners to make this model a long-term, sustainable conservation initiative. WildArk is therefore working alongside the team on the ground in Zambia to assist with the success of this project.”

Support the construction of Zambian Wildlife Warriors’ anti-poaching team by donating today: https://bit.ly/2Lr7JEv