Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spike in Zim elephant, rhino poaching

Harare - Zimbabwe's wildlife service chief says rhino poaching has risen sharply in recent weeks, with raids organised by sophisticated poaching syndicates.

Parks and Wildlife director general Vitalis Chidenga said on Tuesday seven endangered rhinos were killed in southern Zimbabwe from early December to Jan 19.

He says that represents about one-third of all 22 rhino poached in 2010. Chadenga said the poachers were well-equipped and that "big money" syndicates even used aircraft for poaching missions and reconnaissance.

He says five of the rhino were shot in Matopos National Park south of Bulawayo in the restive western Matabeleland province.


On May 18, 2011, I compiled, filed and got this story published on The Daily News, read on to understand why Vitalis Chadenga is abusing his position as parks director to lie so as to reduce the magnitude of the poaching crisis in 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 poachers 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 fierce confrontation with the poachers who then ran away leaving behind an AK47 rifle 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 been an increase in gun crimes such as stock theft, armed robbery of service stations and lodges all along the Zambezi River and big game poaching is a big problem in the safari areas."

The Sinamatela killing is the second rhino slaughter to hit Zimbabwean game sanctuaries within a month following the death of the de-horned Save Conservancy Valley rhino which was shot five times but regained consciousness after the poachers had de-stumped and left it for dead.

The rhino eventually died last week in the hands on local and international veterinary experts who have been struggling to save its life. 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 national 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 Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year.

South Africa, which has lost nearly 400 rhinos since the beginning of the year, has declared poaching a national emergency and deployed its armed forces to crack down on the Kruger National and other syndicate-poaching infested game sanctuaries along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Although poaching persists as evidenced by the slaughter of two more 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.

Armed forces chiefs says intelligence gathered from arrested poachers is helping the force in turning tide against the poaching syndicates. No comment could be obtained from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Source: News24/AEP

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