Wild Horizons Corporate Social Responsibility
Wild Horizons Corporate Social Responsibility
WILD HORIZONS AT A GLANCE
Wild Horizons is an eco-tourism operator devoted to conserving and celebrating the pristine natural wilderness from which we operate. From the Zambezi River to the National Park, we are wholeheartedly invested in Africa’s pristine and unique natural beauty. We work tirelessly to preserve and protect the environment in every dimension of the business, sharing ecotourism’s benefits with the communities that we work alongside. Behind every Wild Horizons venture is a purpose aimed at creating an enriching travel experience for our guests while conserving Africa’s wilderness and wildlife for the local communities and future generations. Our social responsibility philosophy symbolises the moral compass that we use as a guiding framework for all decision-making within the organisation.
THE VICTORIA FALLS WILDLIFE TRUST
Wild Horizons established the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, a non-profit entity and dedicated vehicle for promoting conservation awareness, education and the empowerment of local communities, through the sustainable use of endemic resources. The Trust is situated within the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary, adjacent to The Elephant Camp, and works in collaboration with authorities, local communities, and other stakeholders to protect the area’s indigenous fauna and flora. From humble beginnings in 2008, the Trust is now world renown for unprecedented success in research, outreach, rescue and rehabilitation.
The economic situation in Zimbabwe exacerbated instances of poaching, and the Trust was initially focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. In the last ten years, they have developed their conservation efforts to include working with local communities to focus on conserving habitats, finding scientific wildlife management solutions, and improving health through screening and prevention of transboundary animal diseases. The Trust has also expanded internationally with registered sister charities in both the USA and the UK.
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust aims to inspire affirmative action every day, in every sphere of conservation and education.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH & TRAINING PROGRAM
The health of Africa’s ecosystems relies on the support of surrounding local communities, and to this end, the Trust has established a ‘Community Outreach and Training’ program. Through this project, they aim to inspire the external community to learn about and appreciate the importance of sustainability and conservation. To achieve this, they work closely with local communities to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, provide opportunities for conservation education and support a range of projects to empower self-sustainability. This includes vegetable and subsistence crop growing in the local villages, erecting fences on their boundary lines to prevent wild animals from damaging crops or posing a threat to the safety of the communities, and providing the machinery and transport required to cut thatching for homes.
We believe that education is the pillar that will uphold and support sustainable conservation, and the Trust is actively involved with the next generation of conservationists and environmental leaders. Annually, over a thousand school children are transported to the Trust, where they have the opportunity to interact with the wildlife ambassadors and learn from a team of passionate conservationists, who become their role models and mentors. By addressing the next generation of decision-makers, we hope to inspire them to care for their natural heritage and to become the guardians of these areas in the future.
The elephant herds that live in the sanctuary act as wildlife ambassadors for their species to champion a message of coexistence with their rural and urban neighbours. Wildlife ambassadors are animals that can not be successfully rehabilitated, and by sharing their rescue stories, these animals act as ambassadors for their species to increase awareness of their plight in the wild. Research shows that wildlife ambassadors provide compelling experiences needed for people to gain personal connections and relationships with nature. The elephants epitomise this fact, and the awe and respect that the children garner through this experience transforms their ideologies and ignites a sense of pride for their natural environment.
This grass-roots conservation education program challenges misconceptions of wildlife in rural areas in the Victoria Falls region. Our mission is to demonstrate respect for and understanding of wildlife through this opportunity to connect with animals in the most positive and natural way possible. The education program casts a pebble into the waters of change, and we are confident that the ripple effect will be felt by many generations to come.
WILDLIFE VETERINARY CLINIC
The Trust Veterinary Laboratory and Clinic is a field station from which researchers, veterinarians, and graduate students can study zoonotic diseases that are transmitted across species and boundaries. Transmission of these diseases can cause epidemic crashes of keystone wildlife species, and to prevent the consequent socio-economic and public health catastrophes, they take samples from domestic and wild animals to understand and prohibit disease prevalence.
WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTER
The ‘Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre’ provides veterinary care to wildlife that has been injured, orphaned or abandoned due to snaring, human conflict, poisoning or vehicle-wildlife collisions. It is the goal of the Trust to release every injured animal back into the wild. One of the highlights of 2018 was the day that they successfully released Aardy the aardwolf back into his natural habitat. Aardy was temporarily paralysed after a vehicle hit him, and while the road to recovery was long, the collaborative effort between the private sector and government wildlife agencies ensured his successful rehabilitation.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH PROJECTS
The seeds for long-term environmental protection are planted in the Trust’s wildlife research projects. By investigating what may cause a species to flourish or flounder, they are in a stronger position to evaluate the factors and find sustainable solutions. Their ultimate research objective is to promote a sustainable harmonic existence between humans and the wilderness. For more information about their on-going projects and plans, please visit https://vicfallswildlifetrust.org/projects/
SUPPORT FOR NATIONAL PARKS GAME SCOUTS
We believe that sustainability relies on the combined effort of our Victoria Falls community. The National Parks Game Scouts are invaluable in protecting our wilderness and wildlife. We provide support to the Katombora scouts in the form of food and fuel to assist in the National Parks anti-poaching efforts in Kazungula and the Matetsti areas of Zimbabwe.
VICTORIA FALLS ANTI POACHING UNIT
The Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit has been instrumental in reducing instances of poaching, and we applaud their momentous success. Wild Horizons sponsors three officers employed by VFAPU to assist with anti-poaching activities in and around Victoria Falls.
RAINFOREST RAINCOAT PROJECT
This project provides jobs and income at a grassroots level. We source and donate raincoats to an association of vendors who hire them out to guests visiting the Victoria Falls rainforest. This provides an ongoing income to more than 30 vendors and their families.
The tourism industry is a vessel for cultural exchange, and it is important to Wild Horizons that we celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of all staff and communities that we work and engage with. We pioneered and continue to facilitate home-hosted meals to create a space within which our team can share their heritage and pass on cultural knowledge to people visiting the region. Nineteen staff members are involved with the initiative and are from various tribes including Shona, Ndebele, Nambya and Nyanja tribes. We provide transport, mineral water and soft drinks, and the host family prepares and shares a meal with their guests. The fee of this activity provides an additional source of income to the family, and provides insight into the contemporary life and society of others, promoting an appreciation of local cultures that enrich our guests own travel experience.
CLEAN UP TEAM
Once a month, Wild Horizons, together with other tourism entities in the area, embark on a litter sweep throughout the town, helping to keep Victoria Falls clean.
SCHOOL FEE PAYMENT
Wild Horizons is a community-oriented organisation, and our dedication to the next generation’s future extends beyond conservation into the realm of school education. To this end, we pay the school fees of 67 children at eight rural schools in the region.
DONATIONS TO THE OLD AGE HOME
In collaboration with the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, Wild Horizons contributes to the salaries of employees at the local Old Age Home. Once a year, we donate gas for their stove and host a meal for the people residing there.
CHINOTIMBA VEGETABLE GARDEN
Nestled within the Chinotimba township area, a community of people living with HIV/AIDS has cultivated a vegetable garden, and Wild Horizons supplies them with gardening implements, seeds and fertiliser to support this empowering and uplifting initiative.
In collaboration with the Victoria Falls Municipality, Wild Horizons monitors the upkeep of the CHOGM garden at the entrance to the town. We have installed the irrigation system and will continue to care for and maintain the garden.
SOCCER KIT DONATIONS
Sport has the power to bring people together through a shared sense of community and purpose, and we believe that this alignment is incremental to fostering a relationship with local communities. Wild Horizons donated two soccer balls and soccer kit for 18 players in the Sizinda community soccer team, Cremora FC. Our support and involvement with their team have opened the door to future collaboration, be this in the realm of sport or conservation. We believe that this company is not a sole entity, but a member of the greater Victoria Falls community.
THE ELEPHANT CAMP AND OLD DRIFT LODGE
Our lodges are built and managed in the most eco-friendly way possible so that our presence in the wilderness enhances the quality of conservation in the area and minimises the negative impact. The lodges are built with environmentally friendly decking that is Forest Stewardship Council certified and consists of 60% bamboo fibres and 40% recycled plastic that would otherwise have entered landfills. The Elephant Camp was awarded Green Tourism Silver grading in 2016.
Our latest adventure is taking place on the banks of the Zambezi River, where we have built Old Drift Lodge. Our purpose has always been to conserve and celebrate Africa’s natural wilderness and wildlife by creating opportunities for people to journey into some of the world’s unique and exquisite areas such as the Zambezi National Park. Our mission is to protect these areas by enabling people to visit the Park, and by paying a conservation levy for every guest that stays with us, which contributes to the protection and maintenance of the wilderness and wildlife.
LODGE ECO INITIATIVES
ORGANIC VEGETABLE GARDEN
Our organic vegetable garden provides fresh seasonal ingredients and herbs free from pesticides and with zero food miles.
All plant waste from The Elephant Camp, as well as a significant amount of elephant dung from our resident elephant herd, is fed into our worm farms, creating valuable, rich compost for use in our organic vegetable garden.
Our solar water heating systems harness energy provided by the sun and allows our camps to be partially run by this natural powerhouse. Our investment in renewable energy supplies has drastically reduced our carbon footprint and emission of harmful greenhouse gases.
GREY WATER USE
We are committed to ensuring that any negative impact from our operations is minimised and all positive impact is maximised. In line with our minimal waste philosophy, we use grey water for irrigation in all of our lodges, notably on our indigenous tree nursery. The sewage systems in our camps are “Bio Plants”, designed by Water Africa. The “Bio Plant” uses bacteria and ozone gas extracted from the environment to treat the sewage and produce grey water, which is pumped onto natural vegetation for dispersal. By using greywater for our tree nursery, we reduce the camps need for fresh water, which benefits the broader community by reducing the demands on public water supplies. It further saves expenses on water bills, and this revenue can be channelled into other environmental initiatives, such as the instalment of solar geysers.
BIOLOGICAL MONITORING AND SOIL EROSION CONTROL
Our operations unfold in spectacular natural environments, and we believe that we have an obligation to ensure that our presence enhances the conservation status in these areas. To help us to fulfil this responsibility successfully, Wild Horizons employs the services of a qualified Environmental Officer, Derry Sibanda, whose sole purpose is to monitor the biology of the Wild Horizon’s Wildlife Sanctuary. Quarterly biological surveys are conducted to monitor the impact of both the habituated elephant herd and the naturally occurring wildlife on the property. Alien vegetation species are eradicated, and soil erosion is carefully managed, both within the reserve and in neighbouring communal areas.
INDIGENOUS TREE PLANTING PROGRAM
To rehabilitate areas that were once denuded of trees by uncontrolled harvesting of firewood and wood for carving, The Elephant Camp has created an indigenous tree nursery. Only trees indigenous to the area are planted from seed, and once well enough established, are transplanted into areas in need of rehabilitation. Sticks are doused in chilli oil and dotted around the saplings to prevent elephants, baboons and other wildlife from damaging them. According to our Environmental Officer, Derry Sibanda, the trees are doing much better since we started this and the vegetation in these areas is starting to look more natural and luscious.
In the first month of 2019, 155 trees were planted around the Wallow, the Sanctuary, the Wildlife Trust and the Masuwe River wetlands. The species of trees include Faidherbia Albida, Kigelia Africana, Philenotera Violacea, Azana Garckeana, Acacia Erioloba, Acacia Tortilis, Adansonia Digitata, Colophospermum Mopane, and Alzelia Quanzenis.
WASTE-FREE WILD HORIZONS
Plastic pollution is a global epidemic, causing immense damage to the ecosystem and posing a danger to animals through consumption. The eradication of single-use plastic products is essential for ecotourism, and through various initiatives, Wild Horizons hopes to accelerate positive change in the region by providing a leading example of sustainable tourism.
The elimination of single-use plastic products began with the ban on plastic straws in all of our camps, on our river cruises, and at The Wild Horizons Lookout Café. To demonstrate the sincerity of our sustainability commitment, guests staying in our lodges or going on a bicycle tour with us are given a reusable water bottle to keep and use during their time with Wild Horizons and on their journey beyond Victoria Falls. Through our on-site water purification systems at the camps, guests can refill their reusable bottles, and water served during meals times is in branded glass bottles. This has not only raised awareness regarding plastic waste among staff and guests but has also significantly reduced our use of plastic bottled water.
The success of our business relies on the conservation of our exceptional wilderness areas, and we strive to create a culture within the organisation that values sustainability in all aspects of our lives, beyond the business operations. To this end, we have established a recycling station in all of our offices, taking a position as a company to reduce, reuse and recycle in all spheres of our business. Guidelines for correct litter disposal are posted above colour-coded bins, and in this way, we incorporate our sustainability philosophy into each of our daily lives.
We believe that our employees are our most valuable assets and we strive to ensure that they feel fulfilled, rewarded and valued as ambassadors of Wild Horizons. Our operations have created employment opportunities within the region, and 80.04% of our staff is from the immediate vicinity.
Training and development have always been a priority at Wild Horizons, and this year, Paul Hubbard hosted a training workshop for all Driver Guides. This brought our team closer together and generated enthusiasm, ideas and insight into the team dynamic. It embedded internal brand engagement firmly within the participants, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the experience and found the workshop to be a valuable endeavour for their personal and professional growth as guides.