THE Santonga “Zoo” project, which put Victoria Falls Town Council at loggerheads with animal activists and tourism players in the resort town, is still on the local authority’s plans, a situation which is likely to reignite the yesteryear flames.
The Santonga project was the brain child of Africa Albida Tourism which received environment impact assessment approval in 2007, but four years ago divided tourism players over whether or not it should go ahead.
Tourism players have vehemently opposed the project saying it would kill the enthusiasm in game drives, while residents fear it would close the animal corridors thereby increasing human-wildlife conflict in suburbs.
Faced with the outcry, the project was temporarily suspended, but there are fresh reports that council was mulling its resumption.
The situation is likely to put the local authority on the collision course with tourism players, animal conservationists and residents.
Victoria Falls town clerk, Ronnie Dube confirmed the project had gained traction.
“Let’s remove the zoo part of it. It’s not a zoo. The project is still in the pipeline. It had stopped because Zambezi Copters was supposed to move away from the place they operate from, near Elephant Hills Hotel. We have gained traction in having Zambezi Copters move to a new site, but being held back because the new site has no facilities such as water and sewer reticulation,” Dube said.
Victoria Falls Residents Association chairperson, Morgan Gazza Ncube said residents were still against the project which they said would lead to loss of jobs downstream.
“The residents are opposed to the project and have not changed their position on that. However, if the project implementers are saying they are still pushing for the project we will consult the people. I do not know whether they are still putting up logistics for its implementation,” Gaza Ncube said.
Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi said they were waiting to see what happens and then they would respond accordingly.
“We are against the establishment of a zoo in the resort town, but we are waiting to see their plans. At the moment we can’t say much. We will wait to react accordingly after seeing how they are progressing with the plan,” Mukwasi said.
Africa Albida Tourism chairperson, Dave Glynn has in the past defended the project saying it was not a zoo, but should be termed “Santonga, the Victoria Falls story” and be described as an edutainment park. He said the project would not lead to loss of jobs, but would create 150 direct jobs, adding that the World Tourism Organisation research showed a multiplier effect of 10 times, so they anticipated 1 500 downstream jobs.