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Zimbabwe's Rescued Wildlife Joins Jerusalema Dance Challenge

Workers at the Zimbabwe wildlife rescue center Wild is Life are seen outside Harare, Sept. 23, 2020, dancing in the Jerusalema Dance Challenge, a South African internet craze that has gripped the continent (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

The Jerusalema Dance Challenge, a South African internet craze, is sweeping the African continent.

As the Jerusalema spreads across Africa, in Zimbabwe, the wildlife is joining in. Staff at Zimbabwe's Wild is Life sanctuary for rescued wildlife have seen their online dance video with elephants, giraffes and other animals go viral.

The song "Jerusalema," by South African DJ and record producer Master KG and vocalist Nomcebo, went viral during the coronavirus lockdown.

Dancers, both professional and amateur, began posting their performances to the song online – including with some wildlife. Roxy Danckwerts, the founder of Wild is Life, said they used their phones to record the video.

Danckwerts said they made the video just to ease lockdown boredom with her employees.

"I think we have already — we have had an amazing response. We didn’t expect that to happen at all, that it would go viral. I hope it will spread further and get more people involved in the challenge. But really, it is about — for us particularly — it is about spreading awareness about animals and the sentience of animals and the importance of animals for national heritage, basically for our children and for our country," she said.

Danckwerts said she hopes it will help support Zimbabwe’s wildlife tourism industry.

South African tourist Phillipa Meek said she decided to visit the Wild is Life center with her friend Ben Fowler after seeing the video online.

"I have been watching a few of the Jerusalema videos, and the Wild is Life one was absolutely amazing. With all the animals and baby elephants, they were so cute, the giraffes and all the spirit in the video was absolutely fantastic, and I thought it was one of the best Jerusalema videos that is out there and it really encouraged me, because I am from South Africa, to come here and I just see it for myself," Meek said.

Like much of Africa, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has been suffering since the pandemic began in March. But even before the pandemic, Zimbabwe struggled to attract visitors.

Godfrey Koti, the spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said the pandemic has brought the industry worldwide to “ground zero” and it is time for Zimbabwe to take off.

"And we are starting with domestic tourism, making sure that everything is in place from a domestic perspective. For us to be successful, we need a sound domestic product, then we can go to the region and effectively send it to the international market and increase our arrivals, thereby increasing our contribution to the GDP, which is currently at 8%. We are looking at maybe between 15% and 18% and obviously, this will give us a very healthy $5 billion contribution to the fiscus," Koti said.

Zimbabwe has seen triple-digit inflation, adding to the country’s economic problems. Tourism is one of the industries Zimbabwe hopes will revive the country’s struggling economy.

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