In an area as large as the magnificent Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, rangers are kept on their toes – quite literally – by having to spend hours patrolling this vast 1-million-hectare wilderness area to combat wildlife crime and illegal poaching activities. Because of a limited road network in the park, many places are inaccessible by vehicles, so rangers must patrol the region on foot. This often means setting up a ranger camp in isolated but jaw-droppingly beautiful locations.
Today, Cloete Hepburn, one of Limpopo National Park’s rangers, has been tasked with dropping off and overseeing a patrol team in the area. Although their work is challenging, spending a few days in locations such as Ngwenya Pools with no soul in sight is a unique experience and one of the many perks of being a ranger.
After setting up the ranger camp, the team takes a stroll around the area, which provides them with some evidence of the local wildlife who are regular visitors to these pools – a life-sustaining water source during the dry winter months. Excitingly, there are lion tracks just a few hundred metres from camp, and Cloete also spots some elephants who are busy feeding on the riverine vegetation.
Limpopo National Park borders the world-famous Kruger National Park in South Africa and is bounded by the Limpopo and Olifants rivers, with the Shingwedzi River flowing through the heart of it. Both the Kruger and Limpopo national parks make up the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also includes Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, lying to the north. This transfrontier park is home to an important ancient wildlife corridor that is still used today and so protecting this area remains a vital focus and challenge.
Peace Parks Foundation and its partners have been assisting the Mozambique Government with the management and development of the park since 2001. One of the main focuses has been to intensify counter-poaching efforts throughout the park and within identified hotspots on its western border, which remains a critical focus point for illegal activities of wildlife crime syndicates. This has been done through intensified ranger patrols, the development of a central command centre, aircraft surveillance and the deployment of additional rangers.
Peace Parks is grateful for the long hours that these dedicated rangers put in to help restore, improve and protect Limpopo National Park and the immeasurable amount of life that it sustains.