Wildlife is the ultimate natural beauty and species especially the big cats are becoming endangered while some are already extinct.

In a bid to raise awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation, a local organisation, Speak Out For Animals (SOFA) has hosted a 5 kilometre big cats walkathon in Harare to raise the profile of animal law and protection in Zimbabwe.

Scores of citizens, students and the youth braved the early morning chilly weather and showers to converge at Hartmann House in Harare to commemorate the UN Day for World Wildlife and participate in the 5 kilometre walkathon and Zumba.

UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, Anne Madzara said there is need to take steps to protect wildlife, hence the UN theme for World Wildlife Day 2018, which is ‘Big Cats.’

“The 3rd of March is celebrated as World Wildlife Day in order to recognise and celebrate the beauty of diversity in the world fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people,” she said.

WWF Zimbabwe Business Development and Fundraising Manager, Charity Mbirimi said the country is at a critical moment for animal conservation because of the pressures on the planet have never been greater for big cats.

“There have been instances of human-wildlife conflict and these usually result in retaliatory killings such as when lions are involved. Over the years, because of population growth humans have encroached into wildlife areas which in turn causes loss of habitat for wildlife. Wildlife populations can compete with humans over shared resources and lions tend to kill livestock, which is a source of livelihood for humans,” Mbirimi said.

SOFA elected to use the walkathon and took the opportunity to publicise issues surrounding the need to appreciate, conserve and protect lions, tigers, and cheetahs.

The walkathon targeted all Zimbabweans and ensured participants were educated on the population and characteristics of these big cats and the existing laws that protect them, as well as the need to promote local tourism.