Zimbabwe: Revive Anti-Poaching War
Concerted efforts are needed to curb the rising incidence of poaching of the black rhino in game parks and protected areas around the country.
Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the world which has managed to protect the black rhino, thanks to sound wildlife management and conservation policies by the Government, as well as assistance by private conservationists.
Poaching intensified between 1985 and 1993, resulting in the reduction of the rhino population from about 3 000 to 300. The Government took action, through the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Management, and launched a massive anti-poaching campaign, which saw the setting-up of intensive protection zones. Dehorning, although criticised in some quarters, was also started as a way of discouraging poachers from going for the rhino. The result was a steady increase in the rhino population to around 800 today. But renewed poaching activities mean the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has to intensify its anti-poaching operations.
We need to jealously guard our wildlife against poaching, especially the black rhino, which continues to face the real danger of extinction. Its horn is prized in the Far and Middle East where it is believed to be an aphrodisiac and is also valued as a decorative dagger handle. With a kilogramme of rhino horn fetching more money than the same weight in gold, the temptation for poaching is still very high, and this is the major challenge that the parks authority has to tackle head-on.
In May, the World Wide Fund for Nature reported that at least 40 black rhinos were poached in Zimbabwe over the past three years. We called on the parks authority then to do more to closely monitor and manage the country's conservancies so as to preserve the diversity of plant and animal species. Yet poaching of the black rhino is still a nightmare. Yesterday, we reported that poachers shot dead and dehorned a female black rhino and its calf in Hwange Game Park's Sinamatela area. Early this month, three rhinos were shot and killed at Imire Game Park near Marondera by poachers. In August and July, four black rhinos were slaughtered at Tetford Farm in Mazowe on two different occasions, raising the ire of conservationists who feel the protection of the endangered species is now inadequate.
We, therefore, need to build on past successes scored in the conservation of the rhino. We cannot fold our arms and watch poachers decimating our prized wildlife. Something has to be worked out and security in national parks also has to be increased.