Zimbabwe: Poachers Run Riot, Hotel Chain Intervenes

Date Published
Matusadona and Chizarira national parks having lost more than 70 percent of their elephant population in the past ten years
AN elephant is killed in Africa every 15 seconds, while a rhino is killed every day on the continent, a new report revealed last week, highlighting the plight of these magnificent mammals in a region that is increasingly relying on tourism to grow economies.
The poaching scourge has given poorly equipped African wildlife authorities headaches, and across the continent, governments are increasingly relying on donor funding to protect a wide range of wild animals from extinction.
Poachers are attracted to ivory, meat and other organs of animals, which fetch lucrative cash on international markets.
In Zimbabwe, the problem has spiralled out of control, and elephants have been on the receiving end of mindless poachers, with the crisis reaching tipping point in 2013 when over 300 jumbos were decimated by lethal industrial chemicals in the Hwange National Park.
Over many years, rhino poaching has resulted in the near extinction of the species, which are now heavily protected in Zimbabwe.
But last week, a leading hotel chain, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) said it would continue with its complimentary efforts to the work being done by the Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe in hunting down poachers, and protecting elephants, rhinos, and other endangered species.
“Two rhinos a day, and one elephant every 15 minutes, are poached in Africa, with parts of Zimbabwe such as Matusadona and Chizarira national parks having lost more than 70 percent of their elephant population in the past ten years,” said a statement from AAT, founders of the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU).
AAT last week said it would be holding a golf tournament in October to raise funding for the VFAPU as part of efforts to stop poaching in the resort town.
The charity golf tournament, which raised a record US$14 750 last year, is integral to the survival of VFAPU, which relies on donations to cover its US$6 000 a month operational costs, according to the statement by AAT.
An elephant is killed in Africa every 15 seconds, while a rhino is killed every day in Africa.
VFAPU, which was established in an effort to stem poaching, which has reached alarming levels, operates in a 50 kilometre square area around Victoria Falls, and has 17 scouts patrolling seven days a week.
“The unit tackles all forms of poaching, including wood, bush meat and ivory,” AAT said.
AAT chief executive officer, Ross Kennedy, said: “It is evident from the worldwide news coverage of Cecil the lion that wildlife conservation and dealing with poaching remains critically important. It(dealing with poaching) is a key aspect of our company’s philosophy and corporate social responsibility programme.
“Poaching comes in many forms and it is vital that resources are raised to ensure that the incredible work the VFAPU does, which has seen an increase in wildlife numbers in the Victoria Falls area, can continue. This includes giraffe, sable, zebra, all being seen back in and around the area between Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and the Zambezi National Park, and more and more guides are now using the national park for game drives for clients.”
“We understand the pressure and demands in this economy, but AAT covers the costs of the event, so every cent raised goes directly to VFAPU, and we urge individuals and corporates to support by participating, contributing or donating in some way.”
Up to 144 players, making up 36 teams, will take part in VFAPU Golf Day, one of the most enjoyable and best organised events on the golf fundraising calendar, which will also include lunch, entertainment, prizes and a charity auction.
VFAPU has arrested nearly 700 hardened poachers since it was established in 1999 by local safari operator and conservationist Charles Brightman and the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, the flagship property of the Africa Albida Tourism group.
So far, the unit, which works closely with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, has also removed more than 22 000 wire snares from its operational area.
In addition, 179 mammals, including buffalo, kudu, eland and impala, injured by snares have been treated and released back into the wild.
“The (Cecil) lion incident was just one example of what VFAPU has been fighting against for many years now, and we welcome the attention that this singular incident has brought to what has been going on for some time,” said Kennedy.