Zimbabwe's wildlife is facing another destructive year, with poaching on the rise, land being destroyed and no government support for conservation efforts.
Elephants, rhinos and hundreds of other animals are at risk and conservationists in the country have warned of a potential 'disaster'. Johnny Rodrigues, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) described the situation as a "horror story."
"We've got serious problems," Rodrigues told SW Radio Africa on Friday. "Animals are being poached, poisoned, threatened. And there is no law and order to even think of stopping the situation."
Rodriques explained how waterholes have been poisoned, land invaders have been involved in poaching and trees are being chopped down for firewood, placing the animals at risk. He said that this month alone, at least four rhinos have been killed, while recently 88 hippos, 45 buffaloes, 30 elephants and 2 kudus were found dead in Mana Pools National Park. Tests confirmed that the hippos died of anthrax but the cause of death of the other animals has not yet been confirmed.
"We also have ongoing destruction in the Chiredzi River Conservancy which is a massive threat to the animals. Of the 70 elephants that were there, there are now only 44," Rodrigues said.
Last year, about US$150 000 worth of international conservation aid was split between six countries, specifically for elephant conservation efforts in Africa. This money, from a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) fund, was handed to Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa during a meeting last month in South Africa. But Rodrigues explained that Zimbabwe did not even participate in that meeting.
"Conservation is not being supported. The authorities don't seem to care, and the animals are the ones being punished. Everything is under threat," Rodrigues said.
The ZCTF Chair continued that the return of law and order is the only answer to the serious issues facing conservation efforts, saying that without it, no one is safe to even protest what is happening.
"In a normal country, where there is law and order, people can demonstrate and demand that something happens. You can't do that here," Rodriques said.
You can support the work of the ZCTF and follow their updates on the situation by 'Liking' their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ZCTF-Zimbabwe-Conservation-Task-Force/246013052094585