17 September 2013

Zimbabwe: Call for Stiffer Penalties Against Poachers

Photo: Kevin Walsh
Elephants in the evening, Hwange, Zimbabwe.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has called on Government to impose stiffer penalties to deter poachers from killing wild animals in national parks. This comes after elephants were last month poisoned by poachers at the Hwange National Park and Tsholotsho killing 58 in the process.

Police, in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, have arrested nine people and recovered 69 carcasses of elephants since they launched an anti-poaching operation as a response to the increase in the number of jumbos that were being killed.

Minister Kasukuwere visited the two areas on Sunday in the company of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi.

The ministers flew to the scene of the recent elephant killings aboard a helicopter and had a look at the elephants' carcasses and tusks, which have since been confiscated by the police.

Minister Kasukuwere said elephant poisoning and wildlife poaching were glaring, adding that the sentences being imposed on the poachers were not deterrent enough.

"The sentence should scare away would be offenders and it is my hope that those arrested will be an example to other would-be poachers if they are given stiffer penalties," he said.

"People cannot wantonly kill wildlife and get away with it. Something needs to be done as a matter of urgency."

Minister Kasukuwere said wildlife management was everyone's responsibility.

"We must support the Parks and Wildlife Department and the communities should be made aware of the importance of these animals in terms of what they bring to the economy," he said.

"Our collective efforts will eventually see this dangerous behaviour coming to an end."

He would work on a wildlife conservation model that would result in communities benefiting from the conservation of wildlife, thereby creating employment.

The 58 elephants were killed by six poachers after they poisoned a water pond with granules of cyanide.

The six are Sipho Mafu (55), Misheck Mafu (46) of Tsholotsho, Nqobizitha Tshuma (25), Farai Chitsa (34), Tinashe Deroy Sengwayo (22) and Alexander Ngwenya (42) all of Bulawayo.

Cyanide poisoning occurs when a living organism is exposed to a compound that produces cyanide ions when dissolved in water.

Common poisonous cyanide compounds include hydrogen cyanide gas and the crystalline solids potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide.

If cyanide is inhaled, it causes a coma with seizures, apnea and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of minutes.

At lower doses, loss of consciousness may be preceded by general weakness, dizziness, headaches, vertigo, confusion and difficulty in breathing.

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