On 22 July 1997, the Marwell Zimbabwe Trust was registered as a Zimbabwean wildlife conservation and research Trust and is administered by an honorary board of trustees. Our inaugural chairman Mr John Knowles, OBE, founder and CEO of Marwell Zoo and Preservation Trust had been supporting conservation work in Zimbabwe for some time. However, it became evident that there was a great deal of potential to assist in conservation and research programmes here, and rather than simply donating funds on an ad hoc basis, he set out to form a locally registered and administered entity that, with support from overseas, would have a more effective, structured and sustained impact. Shortly after the formation of the Trust, Paignton Zoo and the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust became supporters and continue to support us to this day.
Initially the staff of the Trust concentrated on species based projects with focus on African rhinoceros, small antelope and cheetah with each project involving research and conservation, in conjunction with biodiversity awareness, conflict management and schools education. We formed a Research Advisory Group (RAG) that has met twice a year since 2000 to review our research and conservation work and provide guidance when needed. The RAG members bring a broad range of knowledge which has helped Dambari to maintain research momentum over the years.
In 2010 we took time to look at what we had achieved since inception and where we wanted to be in the next five years. We rebranded to become Dambari Wildlife Trust, taking the name of the field station headquarters and opted for a more holistic approach to activities which became the Conservation Across Boundaries (CAB) programme. The CAB programme encourages multi-disciplinary and multi- stakeholder interactions towards the common goal of a sustainable future for the people and biodiversity Matobo Hills World Heritage site.
Some of the key current CAB projects:
- conservation clubs established in 5 secondary schools on the periphery of the national park through which we are training pupils to monitor and report on the status of their environment – close to 1000 pupils have been through the programme in the last 5 years.
- hosting students undertaking a variety of natural science degrees at local universities in their 3rd year attachment period – 41 students so far.
- ongoing support for conservation of the black and white rhino populations in the Rhodes Matopos National Park through camera trap monitoring, dehorning operations and staff capacity development in rhino monitoring and GIS work.
- research into habitat use and population management of large grazers in the Rhodes Matopos National Park.
- renewing the Zimbabwe rhino policy and management plan 2011 to 2016. We helped to develop the policy, and sit on the national rhino management committee.
- contributing expertise to the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site technical committee.
- helping with the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands in the Matobo Hills.
- working to find solutions to eradicate invasive plant species such as Lantana camara and several cactus species.
We’ve come a fair distance in the past two decades, and will continue to work hard to achieve even more in the coming years in our bid to conserve the unique landscape of the Matobo Hills.