The Sunday Mail
A total of 31 suspected foreign poachers have been either killed or arrested since the beginning of the year as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority intensifies its crackdown on ivory poaching in the country.
Information compiled by ZimParks show that the majority of the foreign nationals are from Zambia while two are Ugandans.
The latest arrest took place last week in Chirundu after suspected Zambian poachers were found tracking a bull elephant.
ZimParks rangers engaged in intensive shooting, leaving one poacher dead whilst the other was arrested.
In another incident, a local was shot dead by rangers in Changadzi in Zambezi valley after exchange of gun fire.
The Sunday Mail understands that the foreign poachers are operating tightly-knit syndicates with locals.
According to information from the authority, poaching activities are mainly concentrated in Matabeleland North, Mashonaland West and Central provinces where there are large elephant populations.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said, “Since the beginning of the year we have arrested 429 poachers with the majority of these people being behind ivory poaching.
“The poachers, on the other hand, killed 51 elephants since January, with the latest killing being of 13 elephants due to cyanide poisoning,” he said.
“Investigations show that foreign nationals are working in cahoots with locals leaving close to national parks and game reserves.
“The locals are the handlers of the foreigners who direct them to the elephants’ watering holes were they lace the poison.
“We have encountered 10 gun fire exchanges with these people in the past nine months, resulting in eight of them being killed.
“To date we have seized 62 boats used by the poachers operating in the Zambezi Valley.”
Mr Farawo said the foreign nationals operating in the Zambezi valley have become sophisticated and are using speed boats, night visions and silencer long range rifles.
“The poachers cross water bodies at night and meet with their local fronts,” he said.
“Prior to this, the locals would have laced the elephants’ watering holes with cyanide.
“After removing tusks from elephants they sneak back to their countries where they organise the sale of the ivory to lucrative markets in Asia and some Arab countries.”
In 2013, ZimParks and the police arrested six people who had smuggled 447 kilogrammes of pieces of ivory to Dubai.
The ivory pieces were stashed under a wooden artefact and were cleared at the Harare International airport, destined for Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel.
Ivory is on demand in Asian countries where it is believed to contain medicinal properties that cure rare ailments.
Mr Farawo said ZimParks has intensified its operations to curb poaching.