"The Stampede" - a volunteer's perspective of the Mukuvisi March for Elephants

It is not often one can take part in a collective campaign for something good. This opportunity presented itself to me in the inaugural Zambezi Elephant Fund Mukuvisi March for Elephants on Saturday the 17th of November, which was being held in unity with the main event in Central Park, New York that very same day – Saving the Elephants 10km Walk/Run.

Teaming up with the event organiser from the Zambezi Elephant Fund (ZEF), Laura Taylor, I rode shotgun as we whizzed around collecting banners, signs, T-shirts and numerous other supplies for the event. It amazed me how many people were jumping on board to support ZEF in this endeavour to raise both awareness and funds for the conservation of Zimbabwe’s iconic elephants. From local businesses offering generous sponsorship, to individuals carrying out their own crowdfunding (as far as the Netherlands), it was apparent that these beautiful animals are dear to us all. With 2.2K ‘interested’ on Facebook, there was much speculation over how many walkers and runners would turn up on the day. We arranged to have 300 T-shirts printed and given to those who were first to register, courtesy of African Threads. Initial registration at O.G.’s Sports Club on Friday evening saw over half of those T-shirts disappear in less than 3 hours. We were all impressed (and relieved) with the number and diversity of people who had pre-registered, but how many more would skip their Saturday sleep-in and join us at Mukuvisi Woodlands to exercise for our elephants?

 Volunteers from left to right - Jane Mackie, Mel Barnes, Gemma Phillis, Laura Taylor, Farai Chapoterera and Beth-Ann Sher

Volunteers from left to right - Jane Mackie, Mel Barnes, Gemma Phillis, Laura Taylor, Farai Chapoterera and Beth-Ann Sher

Laura and I pulled into the Mukuvisi nature reserve shortly after the gates opened on Saturday morning and met with our fellow volunteers. A fresh breeze promised to take the edge off another dry, sunny day in the bush. Laura and Rick buzzed around ensuring the final preparations were in place, Mel marched off to signpost the route and marshal the field, Warwick and Tracy prepared the PA and sound systems from the tent, Richard practised his speech, while Gemma, Farai, Jane, Cecilia and I gathered around the registration point with clipboards, forms, pens, swipe machines and coffees at the ready. At 6.30am we had our first Eager Ellies registering and congregating by the starting point. Some people decided to beat the heat or appease their excitable dogs and made an early start. After half an hour of pens, paper, T-shirts and cash flying, we worked out a system for organising and registering the oncoming rush of faces old and young, familiar and new. By 7.30am we were sorry to inform people that we had run out of T-shirts. In a true spirit of generosity, someone graciously exclaimed, ‘That’s super! It means you’ve had even more support than you were expecting!’ As the 8.00am start time grew near we could hear the festivities beginning over in the marquee and still the support kept coming.

Our truly collaborative Mukuvisi March for Elephants has definitely made some noise that is being heard by those with a less keen sense of hearing.

When the elephant trumpet sounded nearly 500 people stormed the start line along with their dogs, prams, kids’ bikes, flags and water bottles. Gemma, Jane and Cecilia joined the herd while Farai and I stayed behind to register the last few stragglers. Bringing up the rear, we eventually made our way through the bush, passing many hot and smiling people returning from their walk or run. Opting for a steady stroll, we wound our way through shady canopies of indigenous woodland and couldn’t help commenting on what makes this country so special. From Arnold at Zimbarista providing the early morning caffeine and refreshing smoothies, to Mukuvisi’s team tirelessly serving up egg and bacon rolls, to the event organisers, sponsors and volunteers, to the hundreds of participants giving their support, we showcased the great importance of these magnificent elephants in our country.

Zimbabwe is home to the second largest elephant population in the world, but due to poverty, corruption and uncertain governance that has paralysed this country over recent years, it have seen numbers severely diminish from 14,000 (2001) to 3,400 (2014) in the Mid-Zambezi landscape alone. However, the strength and resilience of these animals is mirrored by our own determined efforts, which have seen poaching incidents decrease from 100 in 2016 to just 8 known cases across the middle and lower Zambezi this year. Our truly collaborative Mukuvisi March for Elephants has definitely made some noise that is being heard by those with a less keen sense of hearing.

Beth-Ann Sher

Mukuvisi March for Elephants Volunteer

November 2018


Run/walk for Zimbabwe's elephants in New York City.

 Registration is now open.

We are pleased to announce that registration has now opened for the annual Saving the Elephants 10km Run/Walk in New York on Saturday, November 17th. 

Benefitting the Zambezi Elephant Fund, you can run, jog or walk your way around beautiful Central Park as we unite together to help keep the hope for Zimbabwe’s elephants alive. 

This promises to be a unique and enriching experience for the entire family and we hope to see you there.

Sign up to become a fundraiser and have the chance to win a once-in-lifetime safari to some of Zimbabwe’s top wildlife destinations.

Zambezi Elephant Fund is leading the charge in the fight to save elephants and we need your help in raising $150,000 towards our budget for 2019.

These funds will go directly towards sustainable community development and the continued support for anti-poaching operations of rangers in the ZambeziValley.

Here are the projects we are currently focusing on and need your help in supporting:

  • Community welfare project
  • Patrolling from the rivers and the skies
  • Patrol equipment and infrastructure
  • Community-driven informer project

If you are not based in New York and would like to help us spread the word about the Saving the Elephants 10km Run/Walk please kindly forward this link onto your friends and colleagues.

Introducing our bold new brand!

Welcome to our new website!

As the Zambezi Elephant Fund continues to grow, it is reaching more and more people each day and with that comes new and exciting challenges and opportunities. We want our brand to best reflect why we exist, what we believe in, and where we’re headed.

Today, we’re taking a bold step towards that with a new logo, identity and website that together support our vision and mission.

Ahead of being the sole beneficiary for this year’s annual Saving the Elephants 10km Run/Walk in New York City, we decided it was imperative to re-brand Zambezi Elephant Fund to present a modern, clean and unified voice to our international community.

We commissioned digital strategist Dan Calderwood to project-manage the transition, who in turn teamed up with graphic designer Stefania Origgi to deliver the new-look Zambezi Elephant Fund.

We are extremely proud of our awesome new logo and website and wanted to share the story and rationale behind some of the design choices and digital execution. 

 

NEW LOGO:

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Using the old logo as a foundation, the new logo was inspired from the patterns in Zimbabwean Shona textiles, the shape of the meandering Zambezi River and the ancient paths that the elephant walks.

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It was essential to keep the shape of the baby elephant as it signifies protection, family and community.

With the inter-connected lines and shapes, the logo communicates the core strengths of the Zambezi Elephant Fund – that of commitment and connection to the organisations with whom we work to protect elephants and other species and habitats in the regions enriched by the Zambezi River.

A new, coherent colour palette was selected to echo the rich colours of the Zambezi Valley, which has been applied throughout the new website.

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The choice of the main grey-blue colour represents the elephant’s hide with a complementary colour set representing the shades of dawn experienced in Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley.

 

NEW WEBSITE: We’re ready to unleash its potential!

Along with the new logo we have rebuilt our website to be mobile responsive, user-friendly and reflect our brand new identity.

It is very important to present our story with as little clutter as possible AND be legible on a mobile phone. We wanted the web design to be powerful and contemporary, whilst giving the design layout space to breathe across the pages, allowing users to scroll through our story easily.

Images will always tell a story; therefore, the use of strong visuals is also an important element in clearly communicating our purpose and unique voice.

The new look and feel marks a new chapter in our story. But it is also an important change inspired by Africa’s magnificent elephants and the many people who have supported us and with whom we’ve connected along the way.

The Zambezi Elephant Fund may feel like a new organisation, but we remain true to our vision and mission and would like to thank you for your continued support in helping to keep the hope for Zimbabwe’s elephants alive.

Patrol boat arrives safely in the Zambezi Valley

The new "aluminium flat bottom" patrol boat has arrived safely in the Zambezi Valley today!

Funded by Zambezi Elephant Fund and Virgin Unite, the patrol boat was launched onto the Zambezi River this afternoon and will be operated by The Zambezi Society under Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority instruction for all anti-poaching deployments and river patrols along the Mana Pools river frontage.

Thanks go to all involved in the continued collaborative efforts to protect and conserve the Middle Zambezi Valley Biosphere Reserve and the Mana-Sapi-Chewore UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

How Dropbox Showcase helps Zambezi Elephant Fund present their mission

Original article published on Dropbox's blog here

The Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe contains a World Heritage Site and the longest contiguous wilderness area in Southern Africa. Though the region is home to one of Africa’s remaining elephant strongholds, the Zambezi Valley has lost 40% of its elephant population since 2001. In 2016 alone, they lost one elephant every four days to poaching.

It’s this crisis that inspired a heroic effort to stop the poaching. Formed in 2015, Zambezi Elephant Fund (ZEF) brings together a passionate group of individuals, NGOs, tour operatives, and The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. And as you might imagine, trying to coordinate the logistics of their complex work takes an incredible amount of collaboration.

“Instead of working on this issue in our own ways, we’ve combined our efforts in order to most effectively prevent poaching,” said Richard Maasdorp, Coordinator, Zambezi Elephant Fund (ZEF). 

By bringing together the group’s diverse set of skills and perspectives, we and our partners have developed highly effective anti-poaching activities and have started to contain this crisis.
— Richard Maasdorp, Coordinator, Zambezi Elephant Fund

Though this collaborative model is rare across Africa, the founders of The Zambezi Elephant Fund are convinced it’s one of the main reasons for their success. Here’s how their team unites different parties in pursuit of a common goal—and uses Dropbox to make that work easier.

Training rangers and clearing paths

The campaign against poaching begins by training the people on the front lines: the rangers. The ZEF team provides them with food, equipment, and transportation to the areas known to have poaching activity. The rangers patrol on foot, looking for human footprints, fires, vultures—any indication that poachers have been in the area.

“We call these areas ‘hot spots,’” explains Richard. “Based on the season, we know where poachers are likely to be. In the rainy season, they tend to move along river lines, following elephant paths. In the dry season, the hot spots change.”

In the dry season, Richard says the team looks for waterholes and springs inland because elephants tend to congregate there in search of water. In the hilly areas, poachers move up and down the steep hills using generation-old elephant paths. These elephants have figured out the easiest way to climb up and down the steep slopes.

The more ground the rangers can cover in these hot spots, the better. Because even if the poachers aren’t confronted directly during a patrol, they get nervous when they see the rangers’ footprints. The rangers’ food, transport, and equipment—including radios, tents, packs, and mosquito nets—are made possible by groups and individuals committed to anti-poaching.

Much of the area where poaching takes place is remote and difficult to access. To get rangers in there as quickly as possible, ZEF’s partners have been using earth-moving equipment donated by their supporters to create anti-poaching paths.

Patrolling from the rivers and skies

It’s estimated that nearly 50% of these poachers come from Zambia, crossing the Zambezi River to get to the elephants. To help reduce these numbers, ZEF has funded a patrol boat to intercept the poachers and prevent them from even reaching the shore.

“One of our partner organizations, Flying for Wildlife, fly personally owned small aircrafts looking for signs of fires and carcasses, giving us coverage in the most inaccessible areas,” says Richard. “We are looking to fund a dedicated light aircraft for their use.”

Collecting anonymous tips

There is also an anonymous tip program that enables witnesses to use messaging apps to send anonymous tips about who might be poaching, or hiding ivory before it’s shipped. If this leads to the arrest of people involved in illegal wildlife crime, then a mobile payment is sent as a reward to the informants. This has proven to be a very successful program.

Presenting the mission and showing the impact

When the work you do happens in such a remote area, how do you communicate the impact you’re having? More important, how do you bring in more people from around the world, and invite them to participate in your mission? For ZEF, email attachments and bulletins were losing impact.

Being able to vividly illustrate both the majesty of the elephants they’re protecting and the urgent need for help is key to reaching new supporters. To help people understand the ZEF mission, it takes more than text to tell the story. So they turned to Dropbox Showcase, a new product introduced in October 2017.

Dropbox Showcase helps us bring people into our world. It helps us explain what we are doing visually, it helps to guide people through the work being done often thousands of miles away,” says Richard. “If you can’t feel the dusty path under your feet, the sun warming your back, if you can’t hear the elephants drinking at the waterhole nearby—water gushing through their trunks and down their throats—then it’s up to us to help you understand our work from afar, to understand why we care, why you should too, and what we’re doing to fix this poaching problem. It’s no small task and Dropbox Showcase helps us achieve this.”

One of the key features Richard appreciates about Showcase is the ability to customize the presentation for different audiences. When they share a project externally, Showcase lets them highlight different aspects and tailor them to the interests of the recipient. They can quickly make tweaks to add details and reorder files so that the priority information is right at the top.

Dropbox Showcase helps us bring people into our world. It helps us explain what we are doing visually, it helps to guide people through the work being done often thousands of miles away.

ZEF also uses Showcase internally to communicate across their entire organization. After workshops and strategy meetings, they often need to share takeaways with the rest of the team and partners. Richard says they find it much more engaging and motivating to present this information as a showcase rather than ordinary meeting minutes.