At a high-profile event in Cape Town, senior Wildlife Warden – Solomon Chidunuka – of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife was honoured with the international Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award 2017.
Tusk helps to alleviate poverty through sustainable development and education amongst rural communities who live alongside wildlife, and these awards give the organisation the chance to celebrate extraordinary people, whose work and lives might otherwise go unnoticed outside their fields.
The Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award, introduced in 2015, this year jointly honours the bravery and dedication of two men leading teams, and risking their lives day and night on poaching’s front line.
Warden Chidunuka, is currently serving as the Senior Wildlife Warden in the Mpika District after serving the Lower Zambezi National Park for thirteen years. Under his leadership, the Lower Zambezi area saw the lowest poaching levels on record. In his role as warden and ranger, Solomon displayed exceptional management and leadership in the oversight of all anti-poaching activities in his respective parks, establishing highly productive intelligence networks, which have led to successful convictions of wildlife criminals.
Martin Fletcher of The Telegraph wrote “As a junior ranger in Zambia in 1999, Solomon Chidunuka dressed in old clothes, took a bus to a notorious poachers’ lair, and won their confidence by pretending to be an ivory buyer. He then summoned colleagues who arrested 25 suspects and put many in prison – and he never looked back”.
Since then, his career has seen him become senior wildlife warden in charge of three national parks. Currently, North Luangwa National Park is under Solomon’s supervision, which now holds the only population of black rhino in Zambia. He works in close collaboration with the Frankfurt Zoological Society to protect the rhino population and no rhinos have been lost under his watch.
In the words of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and patron of Tusk, “These awards which mean a great deal to me personally, play a huge part in our mission to preserve Africa’s precious wildlife for its people. It is vital that we recognise the dedication of these unsung heroes and the bravery of rangers risking their lives, day and night, on conservation’s frontline. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Words by Jess Fogarty