The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has praised Zimbabwe for the reduction in poaching cases so far this year, owing to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s zero tolerance for the vice.
From January to March this year, only one elephant and a black rhino have been lost to poachers compared to 12 elephants, five black rhinos and two white rhinos, in the same period last year.
Yesterday, CITES — an international body focusing on endangered species – tweeted: “Good news! #Elephant & #rhino poaching cases down so far this year in Zimbabwe after @Zimparks declared zero tolerance to #poaching”.
Zimparks public relations manager Tinashe Farawo said the authority was happy with the endorsement by CITES, adding that it shows they were doing a great job.
“We are happy with the endorsement we have gotten from CITES for our anti-poaching crusade. This is good, coming as it does from such a crucial organisation,” said Mr Farawo.
Last year alone, 640 poachers were arrested across the country and 590 of them were locals while 50 were foreigners.
Mr Farawo said more than half of the arrested poachers have since been convicted and given a mandatory sentence while 50 rifles and 112 rounds of ammunition were recovered.
Poaching was rife in Hwange — the country’s largest national park — where elephants were killed mainly using cyanide.
Reports suggest that more elephants were killed in Matabeleland North province between 2013 and 2016, with some independent wildlife campaigners claiming that up to 893 elephants were killed, the biggest number in the last 25 years.
Cyanide and shooting are thought to have claimed 249 elephants.
Villagers were accused of planting some of the cyanide and were said to have entered into arrangements with middle-men to whom they sold elephant tasks for $422 each.
The middle-man would then carry the tasks to South Africa where they reportedly fetched almost $14 100 000.
Zimbabwe is understood to have the largest elephant population in Africa, of up to 84 000.
The figure represents 34 000 elephants more than the country’s carrying capacity, which means there is unsustainable pressure on Zimbabwe parks.
In 2011, CITES said almost 17 000 African elephants were brutally butchered by poachers, amid indications by the United Nations wildlife experts that trade in illegal ivory has sharply risen since 2007.
Ivory is in huge demand in Asian countries where it is regarded as “white gold”.
A growing middle class estimated at about one billion in China and India alone, is reportedly seeking safe investments in such assets.