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Zimbabwe’s national parks ruined

I FOR one am not at all unhappy that Zimbabwe will not be participating in the proposed Transfrontier Park project along with South Africa and Mozambique (Zimbabwe Independent, May 2). <

While the concept of such “peace parks” is not new and has been successfully applied elsewhere, generating revenue and promoting heightened conservation programmes and awareness, it would be a mistake on the part of South Africa and Mozambique to allow Zimbabwe to participate.

All of us remember the days when Zimbabwe had the reputation of having one of the finest National Parks infrastructures in Africa. Topflight ecologists planned the development of the parks and wildlife estate and a core of highly dedicated and trained management officers carried those plans to fruition.

Law enforcement was vigorous and transparent. The investigations branch of National Parks was able to convict senior government officials caught contravening conservation laws, and even the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s “VIP hunting scheme” was brought to heel. No more.

One of the undeniable consequences of the last three years of lawlessness in Zimbabwe is that military-style firearms have been indiscriminately issued to myriad hordes with virtually no accountability. When these weapons are used to hunt illegally within the parks and wildlife estate, and there is evidence that this has happened on a large-scale, it amounts to nothing less than state-sponsored poaching.

As much of the country is now subdivided into enclaves of wannabe warlords and therefore effectively no-go areas, it will be years after the return of law and order before the true extent of the depredation of the country’s wildlife can be quantified. Possibly never for it to be reversed.

Remember Operation Stronghold? Rhino Rescue? What is left of Zimbabwe’s rhinoceros population will not survive the current chaos. Law enforcement is also politicised and no one with the “right” credentials will be investigated for anything.

It would be a major embarrassment for South Africa and Mozambique, both with functioning and acclaimed conservation infrastructures, to countenance Zimbabwe’s participation in a Transfrontier Park, and even worse, for the Kruger National Park and the Limpopo Park to be overrun by undisciplined masses of AK-47-wielding thugs.

When we look at the real reasons for Zimbabwe’s exclusion from the Transfrontier Park project, we can see that it will be a long time before we, now as an international pariah, will be invited to participate in such schemes again. Sadly, I have to say “fair enough”.

IJ Larivers,


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