Invaders, poachers decimate Save wildlife

SAVE Valley Conservancy (SVC) lost about 15 000 wild animals to poachers, decimating half the wildlife in the game sanctuary, while an unquantified number of animals were lost on invaded ranches, the park’s largest landowner, Wilfried Pabst, has said.

By Wongai Zhangazha

The conservancy, once regarded as the richest and largest private wildlife sanctuary in the world, has lost its former glory due to invasions and poaching since 2000. This includes a high-profile invasion in 2012 by top Zanu PF officials and senior military officials.

Pabst said the country’s wildlife conservation achievements over the years were reversed by poaching while the fast-track land reform programme impacted the wildlife industry massively in several ways, including through land erosion caused by the uncontrolled settlement of people.

He said SVC was also hard-hit by poaching and resettlement.

“At least 15 000 wild animals were killed excluding populations eradicated on settled ranches. In extrapolating these numbers, we need to understand that the SVC represents less than 2% of the country’s wildlife landmass. Did the country as a whole suffer 50 times the above damage?” said Pabst.

“Non-governmental organisations in North America declared Save Conservancy as a gold standard of conservation at the time (before the land reform programme). Now almost half of it has been destroyed. We are trying to get it back to what it was and the current minister of Environment (Oppah Muchinguri) as well as the European Union is very positively engaged to reverse the trend and make all the areas of Save Conservancy viable again for the benefit of its workers and neighbours.”

He said invaders had destroyed fences on the ranches at SVC while converting them into snares.

By 2010, conservancy owners had removed 84 000 snares while 4 000 poachers were caught. About 2 000 poachers’ dogs were killed.

Pabst, who is also Save’s executive committee’s member, told the Zimbabwe Independent an all-embracing wildlife approach that will see national parks, private and foreign investors coming together to revive wildlife, the backbone of the tourism sector.

Muchinguri last month said government has started restructuring the wildlife-rich SVC as part of efforts to curb rampant poaching and to reduce conflict between animals and humans who have settled in the area.