Monday, June 20, 2011

10 520 bushmeat, commercial poaching incidents recorded in Zim's Save Valley Conservancy


An international team of wildlife conservation researchers says controlling rampant poaching and the illegal bushmeat trade will remain extremely difficult as long as Zimbabwe continues to face political and economic instability.

The findings are contained in a report entitled 'Ecological and Financial Impacts of Illegal Bushmeat Trade In Zimbabwe' by Professor Lindsay and others from the Pretoria University's Mammal Research Institute.

It focuses on the alarming state of poaching in conservancies in the South-Eastern Lowveld and exposes the negative impact of the resettlement of hundreds of ZANU PF supporters in wildlife zones inside the Save Valley Conservancy.

In an abstract accompanying the full report, Professor Lindsay said the illegal bushmeat trade has emerged to become one of the most serious threats to Zimbabwe's faltering efforts at wildlife conservation.

"Under conditions of political instability and economic decline illegal bushmeat hunting has emerged as a serious conservation threat in Zimbabwe. Following settlement of game ranches by subsistence farming communities, wildlife populations have been eradicated over large areas.

"In several areas still being managed as game ranches illegal hunting is causing further declines of wildlife populations (including threatened species such as the wild dog Lycaon pictus and black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis), and threatening the viability of wildlife-based land uses."

The report also found 10,520 illegal hunting incidents recorded from August 2001 to July 2009 in the Save´ Valley Conservancy alone. It says 84,396 wire snares were removed while 4,148 poachers were caught in the same period. It said nearly 6 500 wild animals were butchered during this period and estimated the country's future financial losses from illegal hunting in the Save Conservancy to be in excess US$1.1 million year.

"Illegal hunters’ earnings account for 0.31–0.52% of the financial losses that they impose and the bushmeat trade is an inefficient use of wildlife resources. Illegal hunting peaks during the late dry season and is more frequent close to the boundary, near areas resettled during land reform and close to water. Illegal hunting with dogs peaks during moonlight periods."

The report identified they key drivers of the bushmeat trade in the South-East Lowveld as poverty, unemployment and food shortages, settlement of wildlife areas by impoverished communities that provided open access to wildlife resources, failure to provide stakes for communities in wildlife-based land uses, absence of affordable protein sources other than illegally sourced bushmeat, inadequate investment in anti-poaching in areas remaining under wildlife management and weak penal systems that do not provide sufficient deterrents to illegal bushmeat hunters

Prof Lindsay said their study goes further to highlight several management and land-use planning steps required to maximize the efficacy of anti-poaching and to reduce the likelihood of high impacts of illegal hunting in the country. He said for anti-poaching efforts could succeed only if they are aligned with the regular temporal and spatial patterns of illegal hunting.

Among the recommendations, the researchers said government should impose conditions to ensure that those who get leases for hunting and tourism concessions invest adequately in the national anti-poaching campaign.

They also called on the government to create legislation that bans the making of fences using wire that can be made into snares and cautioned that Land reform involving game ranches should integrate communities in wildlife-based land uses and ensure spatial separation between land for wildlife and human settlement.

"Means are required to create stake-holdings for communities in wildlife and disincentives for illegal hunting," Professor Lindsay said. Zimbabwe faces a serious poaching scourge that has decimated wildlife in conservancies across the country.

The Save Valley Conservancy, Hwange National Park and the Matopos National Park have been hardest hit by poaching. The country has lost 14 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of the year.

Source: AEP

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