THE Zimbabwe National Army and the department of National Parks and Wildlife Management have been accused of involvement in poaching activities that have decimated Zimbabwe’s wildlife i
n the country’s conservancies, the Zimbabwe Independent has been told.
In an interview, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) chairman Johnny Rodrigues, accused the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of failing to curb “state poaching”.
“It’s a fact that the army, which was called in by (Minister Francis) Nhema to fight poaching, is now heavily involved in the illegal activity,” he said.
Rodrigues said the army was involved mainly in the Kariba/Chirara game area.
“ZCTF spoke to eyewitnesses in Kariba who saw soldiers airlifting antelope carcasses,” he said. “Recently we uncovered 200 snares in one day in the area.”
Meanwhile, Rodrigues said poachers were also targeting the black rhino which is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
“Since December 2003, poachers in the Sinamatela Intensified Protection Zone have killed four black rhino, while two others have been killed in the Save Conservancy,” he said.
Rodrigues said the conservancy was under threat from poachers.
“Save has 60% of wild animals left, but the threat of poachers in the area cannot be over-emphasised,” he said.
Rodrigues said Whitro Ranch in Mwenezi, compulsorily acquired by the government, has no animals left.
“It had around 1 000 wild animals including elands, zebras and impalas, prior to land invasions,” ZCTF said.
“Due to poaching, the ranch only had 240 animals left by April last year, now there are no animals there.”
ZCTF also said Kleinbegin Ranch, which is part of the Bubi River Valley Conservancy, has lost 95% of its wildlife to poachers in the past three years.
The anti-poaching organisation, which was formed in 2001, clashed with the government in 2002 over corruption involving government officials.
“When we formed ZCTF, it was with the intention of assisting National Parks to minimise poaching before it was too late,” Rodrigues said.
“With the government actually encouraging the slaughter (of wild animals), it is impossible to fight something of this magnitude.”
Environment minister, Francis Nhema, refuted ZCTF’s accusations saying the department of National Parks was responsible for anti-poaching activities.
“It’s difficult to comment on behalf of the army,” he said. “Most of the staff that does the anti-poaching is ours.”
He said his ministry was “happy with the army’s collaboration”.
He instead accused the ZCTF of falsifying figures. “They (ZCTF) are running away from the truth by giving percentages,” he said. “Their figures worry me a lot.”
Efforts to speak to army spokesman Colonel Ben Ncube were fruitless. He was said to be attending a seminar in Bulawayo.