If you are sitting reading this at your desk, this piece won't quite describe your average day at work. For the scouts and park rangers working in Kariba, however, a typical day is spent in the field – as you will see, they never know what to expect.
As one of the largest registered REDD+ projects by area, the Kariba forest protection project sits between the Chizarira, Matusadona and the World Heritage Site, Mana Pools National Parks, and Zambia's Lower Zambezi National Park.
The project connects these four national parks with eight safari reserves, forming a giant biodiversity corridor which protects an expansive forest, home to numerous vulnerable and endangered species – including the African elephant, lion, hippo, lappet-faced vulture and southern ground hornbill.
Two long-standing Kariba scouts based at Manyuli camp, are Short Chirika and Gift Chisonde. Having grown up in the region, they have an intimate knowledge of local culture, customs and languages. As scouts, they play a key role in keeping the local communities informed about the project and support them to move away from relying on poaching as a means of survival. By focusing on sustainable development and creating alternative livelihoods, the project has transformed the area into a safe haven for people and wildlife alike.
And, there are many benefits for the scouts themselves. "I used to be a fisherman on Lake Kariba, these were very difficult times for me. Since being employed as a scout my life has changed for the better. Now I can afford to pay for my children's school fees, buy them uniforms and buy enough food for the family", said Gift Chisonde.
In Manyuli, along the Ume River, the team carries out early burning to allow new grass to grow. Given the thick forest nearby, having ample grazing is important for the local wildlife and key to keeping them away from crops and community gardens. Elephants and buffalos and other plain game can be seen following the river banks enjoying the pasture and browsing in search of food and water.
Short Chirika said: "As game scouts we also participate in annual early burning and fire awareness that is proving to greatly reduce degradation caused by wildfires to the natural forests, biodiversity and habitats."
A few months ago, a herd of elephants tracked uphill close to the scout's camp looking for food and shelter. Suddenly, a young elephant disappeared into a big hole and did not reemerge. The scouts quickly alerted the National Parks and Council Scouts to send a vehicle to help with the rescue. As the baby elephant was very young and still suckling, they needed to act quickly.
Working together, one of the scouts was able to get close enough to the distressed baby to tie a rope to her leg. The other elephants watched anxiously as the team pulled the baby 'ele' carefully out of the hole. Given her weakened state and that she was so young, the team felt she needed proper medical care, they took her to Tashinga National Park to be looked after until she could be released back with her family.
That's not the only rescue the scouts have helped with. Turns out, baby eles can often get themselves into a spot of bother!
This young elephant got stuck in thick mud on the banks of The Ume River, but luckily an early patrol helped save the calf's life.
The rescue mission began with one of the scouts jogging the 5 or so miles back to camp to get more help as there is often no radio signal out in the bush.
Once the backup team arrived they had to weigh up the risk of the mother elephant charging if the team approached her young. With time running out to save the baby elephant, they had to take the risk. The Conservancy Managers and Kariba Scouts cautiously approached the baby elephant.
After six hours of digging, pulling, and sweating the team finally got the cow to her wobbly legs.
The importance of this work is clear when you spend some days with the Kariba scouts, they are enabling not only the wildlife to thrive but also local communities to live in harmony with nature. Without this project, both would be threatened.
#OurClimateJourney is their climate journey, too!