A Zimbabwean wildlife ranger – Jealous Mpofu has received a prestigious award honour from Britain’s Prince William for his outstanding service to the protection of painted dogs which are under threat in Zimbabwe and most other countries in Africa. Mpofu, 54, a chief tracker at Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) at Hwange National Park was among several African conservation champions that were honoured by Prince William at the annual Tusk Conservation Awards in London on Monday (November 27).
The Prince focused his speech on environmental issues, emphasizing the need for collective efforts to combat the alarming loss of species and habitats in Africa. Mpofu won the 2023 Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award for his dedication and commitment in the protection of painted dogs in the country.
Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award is given to celebrate the dedication and commitment of an individual who works in the field on a daily basis to protect Africa’s wildlife. This award gives international recognition to the men and women who face danger every day to protect biodiversity. Rangers often work for little reward, risking and regularly losing their lives to protect the world’s wildlife and its fragile ecosystems.
This prestigious event honoured outstanding conservationists and showcased their exceptional contributions to protecting Africa’s natural heritage.
“I am so excited to have been honoured by Prince William. This means a lot to me, my family and Zimbabwe,” Mpofu told the Herald in an interview on Tuesday.
“This is a great honour and it will raise the profile of our conservation efforts to save painted dogs in Zimbabwe. We must continue with the good work to save painted dogs from extinction.”
Said John Lemon, chairman of Painted Dog Conservation Inc: “Jealous is a home-grown hero and has helped shape the future of the next generation.”
Jealous joined Painted Dog Conservation in March 1997, where he now heads a team whose daily job is to track down and monitor the various study packs of painted dogs in Hwange National Park. His work includes reporting the whereabouts of packs on the buffer zone between Hwange National Park and the local Dete community, where locals supported by Tusk remove snares and help conduct surveillance to fight poaching crimes.
Mpofu looks after five packs of dogs which have a combined territory of more than 3 000 km² and he knows each one as an individual – they are “his dogs”.
Mpofu is a well-respected member of his local community and has been an amazing role model for aspiring conservationists, teaching others only to learn to conserve what they love, and to love a species they have to have understanding and empathy. Tusk CEO, Charlie Mayhew said: “Each year we are blown away by the commitment, excellence and passion of our winners. Our 2023 conservation leaders are no exception. Truly exemplary, Ekwoge Abwe (Cameroon), Fanny Minesi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Jealous Mpofu (Zimbabwe) are inspirations to their communities and the pure definition of biodiversity defenders. It is an honour to celebrate them.”
Mpofu, has for more than two-and-half decades dedicated his life towards the conservation of painted dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus).
Painted dogs are the largest canids in Africa and the second largest in the world after wolves.
The dogs are an endangered species and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Mpofu has been at the forefront of carrying out vital work to protect painted dogs which are facing numerous threats such as poaching, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. PDC marketing and communications manager Ronnie Sibanda hailed Mpofu for winning the award.
“This has been long coming and it’s a well – deserved recognition for someone like Jealous. He has selflessly given himself to the cause of painted dog conservation,” he said.
“We are so happy and humbled to have had the opportunity to work with him here. He is a really determined and dedicated man to what he does.”
In the past, Africa had around 500 000 painted dogs but the numbers have declined to approximately 7 000 largely due to poaching, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. Zimbabwe has around 700 painted dogs which live in the wild – making about 10 percent of the world’s population.
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