Elephants' poisoning continues: ZimParks

HARARE - Five elephants have died of cyanide poisoning since January as poachers continue to wreak havoc in national parks, a senior official has said.

Jefferson Matipano, acting director of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Parks (ZimParks), told the parliamentary thematic committee on Peace and Security yesterday that poaching was still rampant, with poachers becoming more sophisticated.

Matipano was presenting oral evidence to the committee chaired by Zanu PF Senator Damian Mumvuri.

He claimed the poachers were coming from neighbouring countries.

“We have problems with foreign poachers coming from Zambia and Mozambique, working with the local poachers as couriers of the ivory," Matipano said. “The locals are assisting them to get into the protected areas.

“They are using heavy firearms like AK rifles and silencer guns in their poaching.  They are still poisoning our elephants as we have lost five elephants this year through chemical poisoning using cyanide in the national parks.”

Matipano said poaching  was rampant in Gonarezhou,  Zambezi  and Victoria Falls national parks. He said they had engaged the services of national security agencies to help them stop the poaching.

“Most of their hunting, they are carrying it out in the night using silencer guns, and in one incident this year we fought a group of 18 poachers, resulting in one of them being killed while the rest fled,” Matipano said.      

“We are having challenges in dealing with poachers as it has now become a matter of security and we are now working with the security forces to end the problem."

He said poaching in national parks had persisted due to lack of resources to fight the scourge. He called on the business community and donors to help ZimParks curb poaching.

Last year, more than 300 elephants died of cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park and Tshlotsho in one of the worst poaching atrocities in Zimbabwe.

Matipano also spoke on the  impact of landmines and said they had also  engaged soldiers to help de-mine areas around Gonarezhou, Zambezi and Victoria Falls national parks.

“We have managed to remove 57 landmines with the help of the soldiers in major national parks as the army has a budget on de-mining and they also have the expertise too,” Matipano said.

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