ZIMBABWE – Government has deployed soldiers and special forces to national parks countrywide as it intensifies efforts to arrest the poaching of elephants and other animals.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the involvement of the army meant that poaching was a serious cause for concern.
This comes amid reports that tens of elephants and other endangered animal species were being wiped by a syndicate of poachers that was using deadly cyanide.
“We had to gather soldiers and intelligence patrols towards the national duty against poaching and we have also increased on the police force that was deployed to national parks,” she said.
“The number has since multiplied from the 80 we had identified at first.”
Some of the targeted national parks include Hwange, Mana pools, Gonarezhou, Matusadona and Chizarira.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said army involvement was the only solution to curb the crisis.
“We are not experiencing any war in the country, hence we can rightfully take advantage of that situation and deploy these troops to several national parks,” she said.
“We have been in and out of consultative meetings with the uniformed forces and they are positively responding to this national duty.”
Poachers, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said, were continuing with their destructive path and spreading their illegal operation to other national parks.
“Our efforts have shifted to all the other national parks as most of this poaching is no longer concentrated on just Hwange National Park as the poachers have intensified their operations and are moving to other areas as well,” she said.
“We have heard of new developments around Kariba District and Mana Pools and we have been notified that poachers are moving and multiplying in those areas. We have made one arrest in Kariba and we hope the culprit will comply with investigations so as to make more arrests.”
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said poor working conditions led to the involvement of some rangers in the illegal poaching.
“One of the reasons, which were pointed out to this cause was that some of the rangers have had some working grievances hence they ended up being involved in poaching activities,” she said.
“This has shown that what we are dealing with is not an issue of poachers only as our rangers and surrounding communities were also helping in this illegal activity,”
She said Government was slowly addressing the challenges faced by rangers, which included unpaid allowances, water shortages, lack of adequate clinics, schools and tools of work.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri bemoaned the porous state of the country’s border posts that continuously led to the illegal influx of cyanide in the country.
Turning to the Zimbabwe National Climate Change Conference beginning tomorrow, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Government was committed to addressing issues of climate change.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that Government of Zimbabwe shall host a National Climate Change Conference and launch the national climate change response strategy from the 19th to 20th of November 2015 at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC),” she said.
“This conference comes as a clear demonstration by the Government to express its commitment in addressing climate change issues.”