Humans, wildlife competing for space

HARARE - Clive Stockil, an international award-winning conservationist, has said Zimbabwe is fast becoming too small for wildlife as animals compete for space with humans amid alarming poaching.

Presenting a lecture at celebrations of his lifetime award in Harare last week, Stockil said acres of wilderness were being destroyed to pave way for agriculture and construction.

“I have seen the construction of dams on five large river systems, which led to the clearing of approximately 50 000 hectares of wilderness for the production of sugar cane and the systematic removal of most large wildlife species from another five million hectares, paving the way for commercial cattle production,” he said.

Stockil was last year presented with the inaugural Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa by Prince William for his lifetime commitment to conservation in London.

He said the survival of the rhino hung in the balance.

“The survival of the rhinoceros in its natural environment is hanging precariously in the balance. The sudden increase in the value of its horn has seen an unprecedented increase in demand,” said Stockil.

“We are seeing a move away from traditional methods of poaching to the use of sophisticated equipment such as aircraft, hi-speed motor vehicles, silenced rifles, mobile phones. More recently we are seeing the use of a weapon of mass destruction.”

More than 100 elephants died of cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park last year, in what was described as one of the worst poaching atrocities in Zimbabwe.

Stockil said poachers were becoming innovative in their poaching methods.

“Poachers are turning to the use of silent and deadly agricultural and mining chemicals. The poison which is either injected into a melon or spread at a salt lick, waterholes are contaminated ahead of the unsuspecting thirsty animals,” Stockil said.

“These methods have been used successfully to kill rhino in the Save Valley Conservancy and elephants in Hwange and the Gonarezhou National Parks. The carcass can then be laced with more chemical which continues to kill predators and other scavengers. In 2012, In Gonarezhou Park, an elephant bull was poisoned, the meat laced with more poison, 285 vultures were found dead on the carcass,” he said.

Stockil was given recognition as a result of two projects that he has been committed to over the past three decades. These are the Save Valley Conservancy and The Mahenye Community Project in the Gonarezhou National Park area.

The award was the inaugural Tusk Trust conservation award which recognised individuals who have contributed towards conservation in Africa.

 

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