Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another rhino slaughtered in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Poachers armed with AK47 rifles last week gunned down another black rhino in the Intensive Conservation Area around the prestigious Sinamatela range of the Hwange National Park and engaged parks rangers in a fierce gunbattle before fleeing the scene without their booty.

Although the horn was recovered, the poachers escaped and none have been arrested so far. Matabeleland North provincial police deputy officer commanding Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Mabunda said the rhino was killed by poachers who abandoned an axe and a loaded AK 47 rifle and fled the scene without de-horning the animal.

"On May 12, gunshots were heard some 15 kilometres from Number 3 village in the Sinamatela area. When parks rangers attended to the scene, there was a confrontation with the poachers who then ran away leaving the AK47 and an axe. Police attended the scene and the horn, worth around US$120 000, was recovered," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Mabunda said there is a serious upsurge in big game poaching in the safari areas throughout Matabeleland North while armed crimes were all too common. "There has also been an increase in gun crimes such as stock theft, robbery of service stations and lodges all along the Zambezi River and big game poaching is a big problem in the safari areas."

The killing is the second within a month following the death of the de-horned Save Conservancy Valley rhino that was shot five times but regained consciousness after poachers had de-stumped and left it for dead. Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johnny Rodriguez said the slaughter of the rhino in Sinamatela is distressing and blamed it on the lack of an effective anti-poaching strategy.

"This is the second death this month after the Save Valley Conservancy one which died last week after nearly a fortnight in intensive care. But all this points to the lack of a coherent, effective anti-poaching strategy. The battle against poaching will never be one as long the parks, the security services people and those high up in ZANU PF and government remain players in this carnage," Rodriguez said. Fourteen rhinos have been gunned down by poachers in game sanctuaries across the country since the beginning of the year.

South Africa, which faces the same problem of rhino and elephant poaching, has deployed its armed forces to the Kruger National Park and other poacher infested zones along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Although the poaching continues as eveidenced by the killing of two black rhinos in the Northern Province last week, the army's anti-poaching operations have netted several Mozambican and South African syndicates who were operating in the Greater Kruger zone.

No comment could be obtained from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.


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