Land invasions at the Chiredzi River Conservancy are escalating out of control, with warnings that the area faces catastrophe if nothing is done to stop the destruction.
The Conservancy forms part of the Trans Frontier Conservation Area which is the world's largest inter-regional conservation park, encompassing land from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. But in Zimbabwe lawlessness and the illegal seizure of land means areas like the Chiredzi River Conservancy are being destroyed.
Hundreds of land invaders have moved into the Conservancy and have caused serious damage to the delicate ecosystem there. The invaders have been tearing down trees, destroying the foliage and poaching the animals in the conservancy, in a surge of destruction that could be irreparable.
Charles Taffs, the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), told SW Radio Africa on Friday that they are "hugely concerned," especially regarding the "tragedy facing the elephant herd there." He explained that a herd of 70 elephants are being harassed, threatened and hunted by the land invaders, with no intervention from the government.
"The animals' territory is being completely taken over. Wherever they go they get chased by people with burning sticks and dogs. They can't even get a drink of water because their watering holes have been polluted by people using the water to wash," Taffs explained.
Some of the elephants have already been slaughtered, and Taffs warned that they face being wiped out if no one intervenes. He explained that local councils have now threatened to kill the animals, because they are leaving their territory in search of safety, putting them on the path of local villages.
"This is totally out of control and everything is being totally destroyed. It destroys the area, it destroys tourism, and it destroys whatever reputation Zimbabwe might have. It is like the land reform programme all over again in that no one has won, everyone has lost," Taffs said.
SW Radio Africa has also been told that the rapid clearing of the conservation areas is causing serious environmental degradation, including severe erosion, massive deforestation, destructive fires, along with the rampant poaching. The land invaders are said to be using poison, snares and dogs to hunt for game, causing extreme suffering to the wildlife.
"The coalition government cannot allow the lawlessness and destruction of Zimbabwe's heritage, our future and that of our children to continue. It is critical that they now take a stand, resolve the escalating crisis and restore the rule of law," Taffs said.