REPORT FROM ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE
10th December 2007
We would have taken the greatest pleasure in sending out a happy, heartwarming Christmas report but with the number of adverse reports we have received this year, particularly in the past 3 months, we cannot think of anything "happy" to report. We don't know whether the sudden influx of poaching reports is due to more people speaking out now than ever before, or whether there is a marked increase in poaching activities. The impression we are getting is that an increased number of people, not only poachers, but also people who have previously been regarded as protectors of wildlife, have suddenly decided to try and make as much money as they possibly can at the expense of our wildlife before law and order returns.
Our biggest concern is the fate of the rhino in Zimbabwe. In the past 3 months, we have lost 11 which is totally unacceptable. We cannot stress enough, the importance of protecting this gravely endangered species, not only for Zimbabwe but for the world as a whole. We are deeply saddened by the fact that there are some individuals who are obviously disturbed enough to believe that money is more important than this and we wonder how they sleep at night.
Everybody has now heard about the Imire tragedy, where 3 black rhino were gunned down by men in military uniform. If you count the foetus that was only a week away from being born, we actually lost 12 rhino in the past 3 months - that we know of. A substantial reward has been raised for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of this atrocity. The reward will be paid to the informant by National Parks once the criminals have been apprehended so if anyone has any information, please contact either National Parks on 792731 or the ZCTF - contact details at the foot of this report.
In addition to the Imire rhinos, a mother and her calf were shot recently inside Hwange National Park.
3 white rhino were shot in the Mazoe area and in Chiredzi, 2 black rhino were shot by poachers. In a follow-up operation, National Parks managed to recover camping equipment, a rifle and a rhino horn from the poachers' camp.
It has been reported that a rhino in a pen at Shearwater Adventures in Victoria Falls, has also died but we don't have the details.
A couple of years ago, there were over 40 rhino in Matusadonna. Just last week, it was reported to us by a reliable source that there are only 6 left.
Midlands Conservancy had 56 rhino and the last we heard about a year ago is that they are only left with 21. The others were shot and bullets from AK47s were found in the dead rhinos' bodies.
Gourlays Ranch, a black rhino conservancy had 48 rhino when the ranch was confiscated by so called "war veterans" in 2001. 4 years later it was decided to move the rhino to a safer place but there were only 26 left and 2 of these died during the relocation.
We recently received a report about canned hunting taking place 15km from Kwe Kwe. Apparently 3 lion hunts were sold for USD25 000 each.
We have received numerous reports of elephants being shot, so many in fact, that we suspect there is a "silent cull" taking place and we believe the hunting quota of 500 elephants per annum has now been increased to 1000.
We recently received a report from an investigator who saw approximately 900 elephant carcasses from the air in Chisarira National Park. He said there were more carcasses than live animals.
A tourist who visited Hwange National Park last month, reported seeing 3 elephant carcasses and a foetus in the Robins Camp area. The foetus was untouched but the carcasses had been cut up and the meat stripped from the bones. He supplied the following photos:
In November last year, Shearwater Adventures shocked elephant lovers all over the world when they captured 12 juvenile elephants from their herds in Hwange National Park, traumatizing not only the juveniles, but their families as well. Since then, we have had several reports of cruelty towards the young elephants and we now believe that one of the elephants escaped and 4 have died in captivity.
The chronic food shortages in Zimbabwe are driving the local people to behave like barbarians. We received a very sad report from Kariba last month about the death of one of the residents' favourite elephants, "Short Trunk", so named because the tip of his trunk was missing as a result of a snare wound.
Short Trunk was walking along the main road when a group of 30 of the local inhabitants started stoning him. The elephant panicked and ran down the embankment off the tar road, stumbled and fell into a shallow gully. He was unable to get up and the locals continued to stone him until a lady arrived on the scene and called for help. A group of Kariba residents arrived and tried to push him up but all their efforts were in vain. By this time, he was extremely stressed out and traumatized and the helpers tried to keep him cool by pouring buckets of water over him. All the while, his tormentors were squatting on their haunches nearby, waiting for him to die so they could take the meat.
It was too late in the day to do anything so they left Short Trunk there for the night with National Parks guards watching over him and protecting him from the local people. The helpers returned early the following morning and tried to pull him up with a landrover, using a rope tied to his tusk and foot but that didn't work so they called for a front end loader. Two younger elephants stood nearby as if to keep him company and give him moral support. Whilst waiting for the front end loader to arrive, Short Trunk gradually grew weaker and weaker and then died just as it arrived.
Thanks so much to Geoff and Nikki Blyth, John and Debbie Houghton, Franz and Liz Jordaan and Carol Bird for trying so hard to save him.