Q&A with Phil Jeffery, co-founder of Musekese Conservation
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
What is Musekese Conservation and how has the pandemic affected it?
Musekese Conservation was established in the Kafue National Park in 2017 as a response to the increasing trend and severity of illegal poaching across the region. It is a partnership with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife carefully designed to ensure a sustainable model for conservation, and to that end has its roots deeply embedded in tourism; pre-COVID the project received up to 70% of its funding from tourism and tourism related activities. These funds come from the profits of the tourism enterprises as well as a conservation levy volunteered by guests of the camps to which the project is attached.
With the unforeseen collapse of international travel and tourism as a result of COVID-19 the project was forced to adapt its funding model and receives support from key donors, such as the Lion Recovery Fund, Tusk Trust and The Nature Conservancy to name but a few. Locally we are fortunate enough to have the support of generous individuals and organizations such as Elephant Charge Zambia. It is our firm belief however that the tourism industry must support conservation and we look forward to the resumption of travel in the not too distant future!
What have been some of the most important developments in 2020?
Musekese Conservation recently completed the construction of a large anti-poaching base deep inside the KNP strategically located for maximum impact across an enormous landscape; the area in which the teams operate is over 2,400 square kilometres, larger than the famous Maasai Mara.
This field operations base provides a permanent facility for the deployment of patrol teams and requires a small fleet of boats and vehicles to keep the teams mobile, safe and effective. In the coming months MC will deploy a light aircraft for aerial support in the Park and will be a significant deterrent to any illegal activities.
Other recent developments include the sinking of boreholes in remote locations that will allow for greater coverage of anti-poaching patrols, particularly in the dry season. The teams are equipped with satellite communications and digital radios that ensure rapid and effective communications and coordination.
Can you tell us more about your anti-poaching unit?
MC currently has 21 scouts that make up the anti-poaching teams. The teams are a mixture of Wildlife Police Officers and Community Scouts that are recruited and employed through the Community Resource Boards of the adjacent game management areas. All of our teams undergo extensive training with DNPW and it is our mission to expand on this with supplementary training in key areas, such as advanced/wilderness first aid, crime scene management, patrol techniques, night operations and dangerous game to name but a few. Due to the size of the landscape the teams are effective over only a third of the region and we hope to have the capacity and resources to recruit and train more teams in the near future.
You also own Jerrery & McKeith Safaris, what has 2020 meant for domestic tourism?
Whilst an entirely separate organization MC is inextricably linked to tourism and our company Jeffery & McKeith Safaris is a major benefactor.
2020 saw an increase in domestic tourism across Zambia and provided a great opportunity for people to see more of the country they call home, be it as residents or citizens. There is an abundance of high-quality camps and lodges across Zambia that would typically be less accessible to the domestic market as a result of availability and/or pricing and we were thankful to be able to provide our local market with greater opportunities to explore the Kafue. We recognize the importance of the domestic market as a pillar of Zambia’s tourism economy but it is equally important to recognize international tourism as a mainstay of the same and without it brings into question the long term sustainability of tourism and conservation.
What would you say to international tourists about traveling to Zambia?
Zambia is one of the safest countries in the world to visit; this was a fact before COVID and remains true today with the country having escaped the worst of the pandemic. We have experienced first hand the efforts that tourist facilities have made to ensure visitors are safe and that all recommendations and guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health are adhered to.
Despite the huge drop in visitor numbers to the National Parks throughout this pandemic, conservation work has continued uninterrupted and Zambia remains one of the greatest wildlife destinations on the continent. There is no better place to visit.