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SOS Rhino : In the News : Illegal hunters plundering Zim's wildlife

Illegal hunters plundering Zim's wildlife

  November 05 2003 at 02:30AM

By Melanie Gosling
Cape Times

Zimbabwe wildlife is being slaughtered by poachers, biltong hunters and illegal safari operators who are taking advantage of the country's unsettled situation to fill their pockets.

South Africans are believed to be among the illegal operators, as are Zimbabwe government officials.

Desperate environmentalists, trying to keep tabs on the illegal hunting, believe up to 80 percent of the wild animals on Zimbabwe's wildlife conservancies and about 60 percent in Zimbabwe's national parks have been wiped out.

The World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Southern African regional office in Harare says illegal safari operators from South Africa pay small "trophy fees" to people who are occupying wildlife properties, which enables them to shoot any animals - including elephants - for meat, hides and trophies, all of which are exported illegally.

'About 60 percent in Zimbabwe's national parks have been wiped out'

The WWF said in a statement recently that 16 endangered black rhinos and several elephants had been slaughtered in the Matusadona and Hwange National Parks.

They said Zimbabwe's deteriorating economy and land disputes had stimulated poaching for "bushmeat", and rhinos were being caught in bushmeat snares.

WWF's rhino specialist, Raoul du Toit, said while impoverished Zimbabweans may claim to be driven to poaching to feed themselves, unethical sport hunters were driven by money and thrill-seeking.

Johnny Rodrigues, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said three elephants was shot in Hwange Estate last week.

"Last week 40 protected sables were exported. It is so easy to forge signatures on export permits," Rodrigues said on Tuesday.

'Unethical sport hunters were driven by money and thrill-seeking'

Rodrigues has lists of registration numbers of people seen hunting illegally in Zimbabwe, many of whom come from the Limpopo Province. Zimbabwe National Parks staff have been seen in the company of South African hunters.

Paul Bristow, who has a cattle and game farm near Beit Bridge, said two South Africans had moved onto his property two weeks ago to hunt for biltong and skins. They claimed they had been given permission by war veterans.

The Hunting Report, a newsletter for hunters published in the United States, has warned American hunters that safaris are being conducted illegally in Zimbabwe.

"The illegal hunts are being conducted on lands that have been occupied by so-called war veterans who don't own these lands or possess the rights to have wildlife on them.

"The South African professional hunters are simply capitalising on the lawlessness and disorder in Zimbabwe," the newsletter said.

Gary Davies, chief executive director of the Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa, said on Tuesday he had heard reports of illegal hunting, which the association condemned.

"If they are our members we will take action, but so far we've only heard accusations and no one has come up with anything to substantiate the claims," Davies said.

The Cape Times was unable to get comment from Zimbabwe National Parks or the country's department of environment and tourism.

Tony Frost of WWF-South Africa said : "We decry in the strongest terms any form of illegal or unethical hunting. It is a tragedy." - Environment Writer

* This article was originally published on page 5 of The Cape Times on November 05, 2003