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Gonarezhou the Movie takes wildlife conservation issues to the global stage

Minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu

The critical issue of wildlife conservation issues has been brought to the fore on the international scene through the exhilarating yet educative Gonerezhou the Movie.

The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Hon Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu officiated at the premiere of the screening of Gonarezhou the Movie yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya.

In his address, the Minister said it was a historic moment for Zimbabwe and Kenya and all stakeholders involved in wildlife conservation issues as they premiered a movie that has won several awards including Best First Feature at its World Premiere at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Tariro Washe Mnangagwa, a young and vibrant filmmaker, and her team at Meso Maviri Production Company made the Kenyan event possible.

“The film has been premiered at a very opportune time when the Government of Zimbabwe is implementing programmes to raise awareness against poaching, human trafficking, and human-wildlife conflict. Zimbabwe’s wildlife conservation efforts have yielded commendable results. Zimbabwe boasts of having one of the largest populations of the iconic African Elephant in Southern Africa and indeed the whole world. Zimbabwe’s ecosystems also support healthy populations of lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo, pangolins, and various species of antelope among others.

“This success is a result of robust policy and legislative provisions that ensure the protection, conservation, and sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources and its products for socio-economic development,” Hon Ndhlovu said.

The Government of Zimbabwe has also been implementing a number of community-based natural resources management programmes, notably the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). This programme promotes the participation of communities in natural resources management including wildlife resources while deriving economic benefits for improved livelihoods.

“Zimbabwe’s conservation narrative was yet to be told to the world through film and I am pleased that the film industry saw it worthy to narrate Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts in the Gonarezhou National Park and its surrounding areas. Gonarezhou is one of Zimbabwe’s outstanding National Parks boasting a variety of wildlife including elephants. It is situated in the southern part of Zimbabwe and is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area between Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique.”

Gonarezhou National Park is one of the Parks and Wildlife Estate where a co-management arrangement with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, a non-governmental organisation is being implemented and significant resources have been invested to enhance wildlife conservation and tourism development.

Minister Ndhlovu said the narration of its successes and challenges is befitting of an international audience and attention and expressed optimism that such film productions continue to demystify the African conservation story.

It is also his hope that the initiative helps to unite Africa to speak with one voice at international meetings on wildlife such as the meetings of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

The film highlights a critical wildlife conservation challenge of human-wildlife conflict. As the human population grows and wildlife numbers increase, human-wildlife conflicts also increase due to a decrease in wildlife range land resulting from human encroachment into previously dominated wildlife areas.

These conflicts have resulted in damage to crops, human deaths, and injury and loss of domestic animals. Since the beginning of 2022 in Zimbabwe, over 45 people have been killed by wildlife and numerous injuries have been recorded. Lasting solutions to human-wildlife conflict are needed and more importantly affected communities need to derive benefits from the wildlife resources in order to avoid retaliatory killings of wildlife and other conflicts.

The Minister added that the premiere will provide a great backdrop to highlight the role that film plays in telling the African conservation story and the importance of developing home-grown solutions to conservation issues within communities.

The film also presents an opportunity for dialogue and interaction between young people, conservation stakeholders, and local filmmakers on how the shaping of narrative can be mutually beneficial. It will also open dialogue on potential film collaboration between Kenya and Zimbabwe in the hope that one day, stakeholders will witness the premier of a joint Zimbabwe-Kenya Wildlife film.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende