CHIMANIMANI - Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has shot down tourists’ and locals’ claims that Chimanimani Eland Sanctuary’s elands may have been completely wiped out by poachers, insisting that the animals are still being “frequently sighted”.
A number of recent visitors to the park had complained to the Daily News on Sunday that they had failed to see the huge antelope amid claims by locals that they had completely been poached out.
Tinashe Bangidza, who was recently there with his family from Harare, came back without any luck with the antelope he only once saw when he was a child.
“I really wanted my family to see these huge and beautiful animals whose grace fascinated me growing up in this area.
“All I got away with was an excuse by Parks officials but locals say there is nothing anymore,” Bangidza said.
Further investigations by this paper had also indicated that for an animal that at some point in the 70s was considered a “problem animal” by timber producers as they then were a serious threat to their plantations, this sudden disappearance from public view indicates a serious problem.
“Elands were a problem animal, especially with young pine plantations back in the 60s coming to the 70s and even the 90s and if their sightings are no longer that common then there certainly is cause for concern,” Amos Chiketo a retired forester in the Chimanimani area said.
Parks and Wildlife public relations manager Caroline Washaya-Moyo, however, acknowledged that poaching was indeed a “menace” and that the animals were no longer properly secured after the fence that secured them was stolen.
“Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority can confirm that the following wildlife is frequently sighted in Chimanimani — zebra, wildebeest and eland while the bushbuck is the most frequently sighted.
“Indeed the wildlife populations have decreased since the 80s due to a fence that broke and has seen wildlife straying into hostile areas. Poaching has been a contributory factor,” Washaya-Moyo said.
She also added that “our rangers on the ground have been receiving continuous training to counter the poaching menace in the area”.
ZimParks however, said to protect local wildlife, the authority was also engaging the local communities.
“This has seen the Authority scaling up its awareness campaign programmes with communities that reside adjacent Chimanimani where they are advised to desist from harvesting wildlife illegally as this carries a prison sentence.
“Furthermore, tourism in Zimbabwe is wildlife-based and contr