Conservation concerns

Rampant poaching, land degradation and mining within the National Parks continues to put strain on the environment and the country’s wildlife population.

Baby Kunda who was rescued this week.
Baby Kunda who was rescued this week.

A baby elephant found wandering on the Kario/Makuti Road was rescued this week by locals Andries Scholtz and Bryce and Lara Clemence.

It is believed that the family of the young calf was frightened off by something, as their tracks led deep into the bush. Working alongside the National Parks staff, the elephant was taken to Mwanga Lodge outside Harare. He has been named Kunda and lodge owners Gordon and Debbir Putterill have appealed for donations to pay for the special milk required to feed the calf.

Elsewhere in the country, 88 hippos, 45 buffaloes, 30 elephants and two kudus were found dead in Mana Pools National Park. Tests confirm that the hippos died of anthrax, but the cause of death of the other animals has not yet been confirmed.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has confirmed that 23 rhinos were last year killed by poachers, which is a slight improvement on the 30 that were killed in 2010.

“Whilst the improved figures are encouraging, it is still completely unacceptable for even one rhino to be killed in view of the fact that they are an endangered species,” a statement from the organisation reads.

Thirty-seven poachers and illegal horn dealers were arrested and a total of 100 rhino were immobilized for ear notching and horn implanting to facilitate individual identification and monitoring in the field. In addition to this, a US-based animal protection group, the International Rhino Foundation launched "Operation Stop Poaching Now" to raise funds to equip rangers in Zimbabwe and South Africa with kits to help them track rhino poachers.

Another worry for conservationists is the mining activity that has been reported inside Hwange National Park. It has been confirmed that three coal mining developments have been established in the area; two adjoining the park and one inside the park. There are concerns that the increased human activity and the construction of roads will lead to an increase in poaching.

“According to the Park and Wildlife Act, nobody may mine within a national park unless they have a written agreement from the Minister of Environment and Tourism and, to date, it has not been established whether any of the three mines has such an agreement,” a statement from ZCTF reads.

The organisation also raised concerns that land invaders in the Chiredzi River Conservancy were continuing to cause destruction in the area. The cutting down of trees for firewood and increased levels of poaching has been heavily criticised by ZCTF.

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