Harnessing power of sport to save endangered species

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Patrick Chitongo in Chiredzi

Animal rights and conservancy groups are making the most of the influence of sports globally to raise awareness on the dangers faced by some species in Zimbabwe. The efforts were taken to the biggest stage, the London Marathon, held in the British capital. The Kenyan pair, Eliud Kipchoge (men’s race), and Brigid Kosgei (women’s race), emerged the winners of the annual event but endangered species in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the region were winners. Three athletes from Chiredzi, south-east Zimbabwe — Hlengani Michael, Promise Khanuka and Victor Gutu — participated in the 52 kilometre London Marathon after the Gonarezhou Trust sponsored them. They are employees of the Gonarezhou National Park, which is now in a co-management model with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, a Germany based animal conservation that has made a turnaround in flora and fauna in Ginarezhou since the coining of a 20-year co-ownership agreement in 2017 with Parks and Wildlife Management. “Our focus on this tournament is that while we are raising animal conservation awareness campaigns, we need our employees to have appreciation that they are part of the project,” said Gona reZhou Trust director, Hugo van Dar Westhulzen. Van Dar Westhulzen hinted at sponsoring local members of the community to participate in the annual event. “Next year, we are going to involve members of the community on the same focus,” he said. Gutu, a game ranger at Gonarezhou, had the most experience leading to the London tournament. He has twice participated in the 42km Sky Run marathon race in Nyanga, since last year. Khanuka and Michael were in this event for the first time. The race is meant to campaign for animal rights and conservancy across Zimbabwe. — CAJ News

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