Tourism, wildlife and conservation experts said the upgrading of the airport would boost arrivals of tourists intending to visit Gonarezhou National Park, as well as the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, stretching from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique.
Willie Nduku, Director of Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organisation working largely with local communities in Chiredzi district, said Buffalo Range was strategically located to service the transfrontier park, which was launched by the three countries a few years ago.
He said, most tourists intending to visit the transfrontier park were arriving through the main international airports in the three country’s capitals, making it costly to visit the area.
“It is also critical to note that the current efforts that are underway to upgrade Victoria Falls airport, should be tallied with that of Buffalo Range airport,” said Dr Nduku.
Richard Maarsdorp of Chiredzi River Conservancy, said Zimbabwe was losing a lot of revenue due to illegal activities, as some people were taking advantage of the absence of an international airport in the area.
“Upgrading the airport will add security impetus, as bio-piracy would be drastically reduced,” he said.
Another stakeholder, Environment Africa, is pushing for a holistic approach to rhino and elephant conservation in the park through public-private community partnerships.
An official from the organisation noted that upgrading the airport was a noble idea which needs support from governments of the three countries.
‘CAAZ to lobby treasury for funding’
An official from CAAZ said that the authority supports calls to upgrade Buffalo Range to an international airport and would soon lobby treasury to provide funding for such a programme.
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Park is Africa’s largest conservation area covering 35 000 km2, interlinking regions in Mozambique, as well as various privately and state-owned conservation areas in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It also includes areas such as Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, Mozambican Limpopo National Park and the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The area which is the size of Netherlands, has the world’s largest animal kingdom.