Written by Marike Cronjé
In the spirit of wildlife conservation in Africa, we talk to Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Development Director, Tracey Butcher, about the incredible work they are undertaking from their home base in Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust operates from The Victoria Falls National Park and is involved in both wildlife conservation and community upliftment initiatives.
Tracey tells us more about life in Zimbabwe, why she decided to dedicate her life to the cause and exciting new developments in the Trust.
Tracy. B: I wanted to go to Africa and study wildlife since I was a little girl. I found my way to Zimbabwe in 1988 and eventually began my MSc research in conservation biology and wildlife management. As most people do, I fell in love with Africa and stayed for 15 years. Through my research and later a private safari business, I’ve been immersed in conservation issues ever since. Some of The Trust’s founders have been friends and colleagues of mine for many years, I have a great respect for the meaningful work that they do and, as my career evolved into fundraising, they asked if I would consider helping them raise funds back in the U.S where I currently reside. I consulted for them on a limited basis in 2018 and officially came on board in the New Year.
Tracy. B : All of the programs are critical for saving Africa’s iconic species; none works without the other. Our Rescue and Rehab efforts are meaningful in that not only are we mitigating unimaginable suffering hundreds of snared animals experience each year, but we’re also helping wildlife and people coexist by preventing and responding to conflict between villages living on the front line with wildlife and thus, bearing the brunt of crop- and livestock-raiding wildlife.
Tracy. B : As you can imagine the stress of just doing business is great. Challenging conservation needs, Zimbabwe’s economic situation, limited electricity, and the relentless drought make for long, busy days at The Trust. Add to that escalating conservation crises, a budget that struggles to keep up with growing need and that our on-the-ground team often sees the results of horrific poaching, snaring and poisonings…well let’s just say that their days are not all “peaches and cream.” But their spirits can’t be broken, they’re committed to preserving their beautiful natural heritage.
The remarkable successes they do have, along with the support they receive both financially and in spirit from our donors and friends, keeps them going day after day.
Tracy. B : We’re seeing a shift in culture on-the-ground with people that historically didn’t understand or appreciate the value of wildlife. There’s been two cases of local individuals who tipped off law enforcement officials to elephant ivory and rhino horn that was hidden in private residences. This led to the arrest of key players in two different poaching syndicates. We’re also proud of our rhino conservation in Zimbabwe. Robust conservation plans, protection and management is paying off with a stable white rhino population and a growing black rhino population here. The species is still incredibly vulnerable, but this is good news and very well embraced among all Zimbabweans.
Tracy. B : Without doubt, funding and capacity. We have the expertise, the facilities, the passion and the will. With more support and more staff, we could do so much more.
Tracy. B : Definitely agree that there is an increased interest and I am sure there’s still more room for growth. We also receive the majority of our donors through these conservation experiences, and that is increasing annually. In fact, earlier this year, a young European girl Lucia Mack Stein came with her family to visit the Trust. She was so moved by our work that she went home and raised nearly $40,000 for the Trust.
Tracy. B : We’re hosting more and more conservation experiences for organizations like Ker & Downey® Africa including lab visits, ambassador animal interactions, village visits to see our conflict mitigation efforts, accompanying a research project or, should an opportunity unfortunately arise, observing a snare removal.
Tracy. B : They can either 1) donate on our secure website, 2) phone us with payment details and we will process, or 3) mail a check to our home offices.
Details here: US: PO Box 23183, San Diego, CA 92193 | (619) 602-1725 –or- UK: 9 The Clock Tower, Dudbridge Hill, Stroud, GL5 3LH | +44 (0)74 76 227 684