NATIONAL PARKS AUTHORIZE SHOOTING OF ELEPHANTS
by Johnny Rodrigues
In the past week, we have received numerous very disturbing reports from tourists and locals alike regarding the wholesale killing of wildlife, in particular, elephants.
According to sources, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management has embarked on an "Elephant Population Management Programme" and this year, around 1800 elephants have already been shot in Hwange National Park alone. Furthermore, they plan on shooting another 1000. National Parks have allegedly contracted South African hunters to shoot the elephants.
It is of great concern that not only are elephant bulls being shot, but cows as well, leaving orphaned calves behind. We have also been informed that they intend to capture the orphans to be domesticated for elephant rides. Elephants with big tusks are being especially targeted.
According to our sources, the tusks and skins have not been sent to Central Stores so many people are wondering what has happened to them. We have the names of some of the unscrupulous hunters and Safari Companies who are assisting in the decimation of the wildlife we have left here.
National Parks have apparently been issuing permits to clients to shoot other animals for rations as well - not only in Hwange National Park, but also in other National Park areas around the country. In addition to elephants, the ration animals include buffalo, lion, kudu and impala.
A hunt was conducted in Chizarira last month where 2 buffalo were shot. Chizarira is not a designated hunting area. The hunt was conducted by war veterans and 2 South African hunters, with the approval of a National Parks official. On another occasion, an elephant with 90 pound tusks was shot by a South African hunter in the same park but first prize goes to a hunter known as "The London Hunter" who has shot 47 elephants in Chizarira alone.
Before the March elections, numerous animals were shot for meat to encourage the hungry people to attend the ZANU PF political rallies and before the June run-off elections, more animals were shot for the same reason. Since the June election, the ruling party has held countless victory celebrations country-wide and animals have been shot for these celebrations as well. We have now just had our Heroes Day commemorations and National Parks donated 7 elephants and 7 buffalo to Mashonaland Central Province for food at the celebrations.
Gun shots are heard regularly in Kariba and last Saturday, a fresh elephant carcass was found about 800 metres from the crocodile farm. The meat, tusks and skin had been removed.
Reports have been received of wire snares hanging neatly from hooks on the trees around the National Parks living quarters at Nyanyana Camp in Kariba and a seemingly constant supply of fresh meat hanging from wires. A couple of years ago, Kariba was teeming with impala, wart hog, waterbuck etc. but now, it is very rare to see any of the smaller plains game there. Impala, which has always been abundant all over Zimbabwe is almost non-existent in Kariba today.
It is heartbreaking that the wildlife is paying the biggest price of all in the economic collapse of this country. The wild animals are the best tourist attraction Zimbabwe has to offer and we sincerely hope the authorities will come to their senses and realize that before it is all gone.
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline: 263 4 336710
Landline/Fax: 263 4 339065
Mobile: 263 11 603 213