The Herald (Harare)
July 14, 2003--THE poaching war in Gwaai
Conservancy has seen at least four rhinos and 20 painted hunting
dogs killed in the past two months, with game scouts fighting back
and killing three poachers and arresting one who surrendered.
The four poachers are suspected to be
Painted Dog Conservation Trust project
manager Mr Peter Blinston said there has been an alarming escalation
in the level of poaching recently, with two study packs of painted
dogs, comprising about 20 dogs, having been wiped out in the past
"In the past 18 months, we have
lost at least 31 dogs in the Gwaai Conservancy area, which ought
to have a dog population of above 60. The poaching is occurring
at a very worrying scale," he said.
Painted hunting dogs or wild dogs are
one of Africa's most endangered species with a mere 3,000 remaining
out of 500,000 in 1900.
Hunters and poachers kill the dog, a
prolific hunter, mainly for its heart and liver, which they believe
will enhance their hunting skills.
"We are at such a critical point
that in six months there will be nothing," zoologist Mr Gregory
Rasmussen, who has been working on the conservation project since
"There is poaching like I have
never seen in 13 years. If it continues like this there will be
nothing in the buffer zone."
Police in Gwaai found one of the protective collars put on the dogs
at a farm worker's house after an anti-poaching team had noticed
inconsistencies in the dogs' movements and traced radio signals
from one of the missing dogs' collars.
Animals that survive poachers' snares
are often found with deep cuts on their necks usually inflicted
by the wires used to make the snares.
In some cases elephants have been found
with severed trunks.
"If the poaching doesn't stop then
the value of national parks and subsequently tourism will go down,"
Mr Rasmussen said.
He noted that poaching has the capability
to completely undermine the model A2 resettlement scheme.
"The A2 scheme had the objective
to make people gain value from the resources but poachers are destroying
the wealth," he said.
Reports from other parts of the country
also indicate that many other species have been seriously affected
in the past 18 months, including elephants, giraffe and the endangered
Four rhinos are reported to have been
killed in the Sinamatella area in the Hwange National Park in the
past two months, bringing the number of black rhinos killed since
September last year to 11.
"It is a very worrying situation,"
said the head of the anti-poaching team, Mr Sikhosana Sibanda.
"If things continue in this way
we will be out of the job in three months . . . there will be no
anti-poaching to do."
In 2002 alone, poachers killed about
595 impala, 340 kudu, seven giraffes, six elephants and one black
According to estimates by the Zimbabwe
Wildlife Producers Association, half of the country's wildlife has
been killed in the past two years.
Mr Blinston blamed the escalation in
the level of poaching on the recent drought and high levels of unemployment.
"Added to that is the problem of
absentee landlords," he said.
"Most of the surrounding farms
are manned by inexperienced staff who often resort to game as a
source of food."
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