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Dust, sweat and gears

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It was dust, sweat and gears on the 28th of September as the ground thundered and quaked at the wheels of 4×4 chargers traversing the rough terrain in the Miombo woodland of Zambia’s perfectly wild Zambezi Escarpment. This is the mighty Elephant Charge. River crossings made for tricky obstacles and the ravines were daunting as ever. Ghastly gullies lay in wait for unsuspecting spectators at the bottom of steep descents.

The Fuchs Elephant Charge is a 4×4 challenge event held at a secret location in the Zambian wilderness every year since 2008 (Elephant Charge locations are only revealed 48 hours before the event), with the goal of raising money to support wildlife conservation through education in Zambia. The event sees teams competing against each other in an arduous course to complete the shortest distance over ten checkpoints, with the team making the shortest net distance, being the winners of the challenge. Through this year’s event the charge was successful in raising $140,000 towards conservation.

Each participating team in the challenge raises money which is then pledged to charities that support conservation through education in Zambia. These charities include Zambian Carnivore Programme, the Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society of Zambia, Kasanka Trust, Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, BirdWatch Zambia, Conservation Lower Zambezi, Conservation South Luangwa, Musekese Conservation and Game Rangers International. All this with the aim of nurturing the next generation of conservationists in Zambia.

Of the 28 teams that participated this year, the winners of the shortest net distance were Autoworld Limited, with a distance of 21.27 kilometres. And the winning team for the most treacherous course – The Gauntlet – was first timers, the Piccadilly Cowboys with a distance of 0.37 kilometres. Over the years the Charge has garnered sponsors and interest of 4×4 teams from across the globe; including teams from the UK, Italy, Botswana and the USA, who were present this year.

One of this year’s proud sponsors was TAFEL LAGER, under Kazuma Enterprises Limited, Zambia’s biggest importer of premium beverages, who earlier this year welcomed the TAFEL LAGER brand to their family. TAFEL LAGER was responsible for the “thirst aid” during the event. They created a beer garden with a beautiful beer “mobican” and a comfortable and cozy space where the returning chargers could enjoy ice cold complimentary TAFEL beers – LAGER and LITE, while having a nice chat after overcoming the obstacles. This was a welcome treat after undertaking the grueling challenge under the unrelenting heat of the Zambian sun.

This is not the first time Kazuma Enterprises has been a part of the Elephant Charge having previously been on board as a proud sponsor.Guided by the belief that the Charge constitutes vital work for Zambia’s wildlife Kazuma Enterprises was more than glad to support the cause this year.

Organised by event secretary Angela Chisembele, the Charge is also run by a committee of eight volunteers. I caught up with Sarah Davies who has been part of the organising committee for the past three years and handles social media and PR. She had this to share: “The Elephant Charge 2019, was one of the best we’ve had so far. The valley was absolutely fantastic in the Zambezi Escarpment, with a beautiful river for everyone to swim in. We built a good relationship with the community there. The headman and the local farmers were very happy to welcome us into the area and work with us to understand what the Elephant Charge was all about. There were some conservation projects underway from Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust and BirdWatch Zambia, who came and shared some talks on conservation and did a few activities with the community and the children. We collect a K100 from each car that comes on site as a camp site charge. We managed to raise K12,000 from camp site charges, which we gave to the community.”

A key part of this year’s Elephant Charge was the ‘Leave No Trace Policy.’ An effort that was realised by using the services of the Bright Future Project, which collected all the waste left behind from the event, and returned it to Lusaka to be recycled. “We think hard about our footprint. While it’s obvious that it’s a 4×4 event, we keep it fairly short. Its short distances which means small amounts of fuel being used,” Sarah explains. “We make sure to be as conscious as possible about the environment. This year we supplied each camp with eco-friendly charcoal and organic natural soaps in order for people not to use unnatural soaps or chemicals in the river as they washed up. We believe the net impact we have is very positive. We are proud that through this endeavor we get to raise funds for Zambia’s natural resources. We are grateful to sometimes get support from outside Zambia, but we’re doing our best to support Zambian projects with Zambian funds.”

Over the past 12 years the Elephant Charge has amassed grants of over $1,000,000 for wildlife conservation thanks to all the volunteers, teams and sponsors that come on board. Kazuma Enterprises Limited, through their TAFEL Beer Brand, is happy to be among the sponsors supporting wildlife conservation through the Elephant Charge.

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