20 February 2012

Zimbabwe: National Parks Slammed for Involvement in Elephant Deaths

Zimbabwe's National Parks Authority has been slammed for its involvement in recent elephant killings, after it emerged that Parks staff killed three of the animals within a conservancy last week.

The employees from Chipinda Pools went to Chiredzi River Conservancy last Thursday and shot three elephants, including two lactating cows and one young bull. It brings to seven the number of elephants killed in the Conservancy in the past 35 days, where the elephant numbers are dwindling.

According to Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), the Park staff are working with illegal land invaders, who have all but taken over the Chiredzi River Conservancy. He explained that the invaders are deliberately trying to get rid of the wildlife there, to make way for farming.

"The settlers claimed that the animals had attacked them and instead of investigating these claims, the Parks staff just went in and shot them," Rodrigues said, blaming 'criminal elements' within the Parks Authority.

The Parks employees removed the ivory from the dead animals and left the land invaders to remove the meat from the carcasses. Rodrigues said the ZCTF is still trying to track down where the ivory has gone.

Rodrigues meanwhile had strong criticism for National Parks, saying: "It appears that National Parks headquarters in Harare are not aware of what their counterparts are doing in the Lowveld and it is of great concern that the guardians of our wildlife are participating in this criminal activity."

Rodrigues meanwhile said the increasing demand for ivory and the complete lack of the rule of law in Zimbabwe is fuelling this kind of assisted poaching, with detrimental affects on the elephant population.

"Parks insists that there is an abundance of elephant in Zimbabwe, but this just isn't true. In Chiredzi alone there were 72 elephants, now there are just 40," Rodrigues said.

The demand for ivory has seen poaching levels across Africa soar in recent weeks. According to the Reuters news agency, Cameroon's elephant population has been seriously hit, with poachers killing more than 200 elephants in just six weeks.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reportedly called the killings a "massacre' that has "no comparison to those of the preceding years." Meanwhile, the conservation group TRAFFIC has warned of a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks.

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