The international community must urgently help curb a serious and escalating poaching threat in Zimbabwe, urges independent conservation lobby group, The Zambezi Society.
“Zimbabwe’s wildlife and wilderness areas are of global significance,” says Dick Pitman, Vice-Chairman of The Zambezi Society, which has a 25-year history of wildlife and wilderness conservation in northern Zimbabwe. “When a species like the black rhino is being poached to extinction, we are not talking about a local loss. This is a case of collective international responsibility. It’s no longer a matter of “politics”. The world must take action now, or accept the consequences”.
The Zambezi Society, along with other non-governmental conservation organizations has worked tirelessly, at a local level, with very meagre resources, for many years to hold back the tide of poaching, especially in the country’s protected areas. “But the situation is now escalating way beyond our capabilities”, says Pitman. “We need much stronger support. We have been fire-fighting for a long time. But our resources and energy are limited. If the world wants to experience Southern Africa’s wonderful natural wildlife and wilderness resources into the future, then we need urgent help, now.
With limited resources, Parks Estate now a priority
“We realize and acknowledge that there are many essential components that should be included in any effort to eliminate the poaching problem. In particular, relationships with local communities are of high importance. But, on the limited resources currently available, the reinforcement of the Parks Authority’s capability to manage its estate is an urgent and immediate priority.”
The Director of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Management Authority (PWMA), Dr Morris Mutsambiwa, told a parliamentary committee recently that 86 poachers linked to international smuggling syndicates had been arrested this year alone. Ten were shot dead by law enforcers. It appears that Zimbabweans, including those in position of authority, are involved.
“From the intelligence we are gathering, we strongly believe that there are syndicates which operate in the region, involving locals.” He admitted some rangers from his own department had been arrested, and two Cabinet ministers from the ZANU-PF Party have been named in the press as being investigated for poaching.
Inadequate funds for security
Mutsambiwa said the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority is unable to provide adequate security, hence the rise in poaching cases. “We haven’t been able to generate enough revenue for rhino protection. KwaZulu-Natal (in South Africa) spends $3,000 per square metre, while we spend less than $10,” he said.
Vitalis Chadenga, the PWMA operations director, also told journalists recently that “from January to October this year we have lost 65 elephants through poaching. In the same period we have lost 24 black and six white rhinos. It is true that we have witnessed an escalation of poaching nationwide, particularly on private farms.”
Raoul du Toit of Zimbabwe’s Lowveld Rhino Trust says that reasons are ” in part the national situation in Zimbabwe where there is reduced law enforcement and in part the growing demand for rhino horn, the growing Chinese and Vietnamese footprint in Africa and the fact that the markets are now really fueling poaching in a very aggressive way.” He also blamed the courts for not being harsh enough on those poachers captured alive for sentences to act as a deterrent.
Du Toit and Mtsambiwa agree that while the rhino gets most of the attention because it is endangered, wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe in general is facing many challenges. Du Toit said Zimbabwe once had what he described as a proud record in conservation, but the country is compromising some of its own principles. The problem, he explains, extends to other, less obvious target species, like wild dog and zebra. “Zebra hides are being smuggled across the Limpopo river to South Africa, marketed in South Africa and exported from South Africa to European markets at pretty high values.”
The Zambezi Society has set up a special Emergency Anti-Poaching Appeal Fund. All donations received will go directly towards bolstering law-enforcement efforts within the Zambezi Valley Parks Authority areas and undertaking immediate practical activities such as aerial reconnaissance, equipping and deploying ground patrols and boosting anti-poaching training.
Donate to the fund in the following ways:
• online through the Zambezi’s Society’s UK partner organization Save the Rhino International at this link: Zambezi Society Anti-Poaching Appeal
• e-mail your pledge to The Zambezi Society at email@example.com (or send an SMS to +263 912 254462) and we will contact you with banking details.
The Zambezi Society is a non-profit, non-governmental, membership organisation working to conserve the valuable wildlife and wilderness resources of the Zambezi River and its basin for the benefit of future generations.
Source: The Zambezi Society http://www.zamsoc.org