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SOS Rhino : In the News : Current Rhino News : Rhinos fall victim to Zim chaos

Rhinos fall victim to Zim chaos

  Mail & Guardian on-line
Yolandi Groenewald

Published: 1 September 2002 07:00

Zimbabwe's wildlife is threatened by poaching and thirst

A herd of about 30 black rhinos is in desperate trouble in Zimbabwe after war veterans invaded the game farm where they live.

Though poaching is a threat, thirst may kill them first. Richard Pascal, owner of the confiscated land, is worried about their water supply.

War veterans occupied the farm in February and stopped Pascal operating the pump that supplied the rhinos with water. One died soon afterwards. Pascal, a renowned black rhino conservationist, was forced to leave his farm in April. In June he successfully challenged his eviction in court and the government withdrew its case to expropriate his farm.

Despite the verdict, the invaders and Zanu-PF youth brigade members have warned the Pascals they will be murdered if they return to their farm. "We are not allowed to go near our farm. The government sent a task force to politely ask the war veterans to move, but they declined the invitation. Nothing has happened since then," said Carol Pascal, Richard's wife. "The last we saw of our farm was on April 6. We have had to rely on word of mouth for news about our farm and the rhinos. A reliable source told us that four of the rhinos have moved on to the neighbouring farm, Gwizzaan. No other rhinos have been spotted.

"The fence that separates the two farms was pulled down by the war veterans so they could water their cattle on Gwizzaan. This means that there may be no water left on our farm. I don't know where the rhinos are getting water. Even if we wanted to go and take back our farm we were warned by the government not to cause a national incident because it would mean more bad publicity for Zimbabwe."

She says: "We've heard that the state governor of the north of Matebeleland, Obert Mpofu, is interested in acquiring the farm." The Pascals bought the game farm 15 years ago. The farm, situated at Turk Mine in the Bubi district of north Matebeleland, was once a world leader in rhino conservation.

The dead rhino became a sensitive matter between Pascal and the settlers. Pascal called in National Parks officials to collect the horn. This upset the settlers, who wanted to collect the trophy for themselves. On April 6 Pascal was arrested for attempted murder after he allegedly shot at the veterans who allegedly assaulted him during a protest on his farm. He was also accused by Chief Inspector Tarwireyi Tirivavi of the Zimbabwe police of setting the farm's ostriches on the war veterans. The attempted murder case will be heard on November 12. Meanwhile he has been forbidden from setting foot on his property.



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