The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe has recorded reduced cases of elephant and rhino poaching in the first quarter of the year as the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) steps up measures against poaching and protection of endangered animals.
During the first quarter of last year, 15 elephants were killed by poachers, compared to only one during the comparative period this year.
In the first quarter of 2017, five black rhinos and two white rhinos were slayed, but only one black rhino fell victim to the poachers during the same period this year.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail last week, Zimparks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said the authority is conducting an elephant census that is set to be completed soon.
Last year, Zimbabwe had an elephant population of over 83 000, which was the second highest in Africa.
Mr Farawo said there has been an increased number of convictions of poachers this year.
“Some of the measures that we have instituted include increased patrols in the poaching zones while there has also been joint patrols with other security agencies,” he said.
“We have also enhanced engagement with our communities who play a key role in wildlife conservation as well as giving us leads on suspects.
“Most importantly, there has been political will and since the coming in of the new dispensation, we have received support from the Head of State, who articulated to us his vision to protect our wildlife soon after he came into office.”
Mr Farawo said the zero-tolerance policy to poaching proclaimed by Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, has also kept poachers at bay. “The Minister has taken a no-nonsense approach and declared zero tolerance to poaching. She has made it clear to the rangers that they need to do their job diligently,” he said.
“This is why, when there is danger, the rangers can resort to the shoot-to-kill approach when they see that their lives might be at risk.
“Our Director General Mr Fulton Mangwanya has also introduced security courses that have helped rangers to detect poaching before it occurs.
“We are also reinforcing Government’s position that we should go out full force to protect our wildlife because this is the biggest treasure that we have to attract tourists.
“When tourists come to Zimbabwe, they do not come to visit the hotels, they come to see our wildlife.”
Mr Farawo said the parks authority had also enhanced mechanisms to fight cyanide poaching through activating swift response mechanisms.
“One of our major challenges has been cyanide poaching but our systems are now better positioned to respond quickly to such cases and nab the culprits,” he said.
Mr Farawo added that the authority has embarked on the Command Fisheries initiative, which has seen the distribution of two million fingerlings to curb fish poaching by encouraging communities to embark on standardised fish farming.