Army deployed to National Parks in wake of elephant deaths

Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri

Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri

Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau
THE government has adopted a two-pronged approach in fighting elephant poaching that includes roping in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to complement rangers and the University of Zimbabwe that is expected to come up with a wildlife tracking system.

As such, helicopters and drones will be deployed to the national parks while the wildlife tracking system will be used to monitor animal movements.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri revealed this during the pre-budget seminar for MPs in Victoria Falls last week.

She was responding to suggestions by MPs that the government was supposed to include the security forces in fighting poachers.

“We’ve now roped in the army and you will see a very serious operation which should send a warning to these poachers that we are now very serious,” said minister Muchinguri-Kashiri.

“You will see helicopters in the national parks. I’ve also been advised that drones have already been bought that cover 40km. This means that where we were supposed to have so many rangers, we will just be using one drone.

“We’re also working with the University of Zimbabwe to have tracking equipment so that we can see elephants from Harare. Once we see a suspicious movement, we immediately advise the Air Force to deploy a helicopter right away. We’re very sophisticated now.”

Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said Zimbabwe would also continue to export live elephants to reduce the ever growing population that was unsustainable.

“We exported elephants to China and there was backlash from America. But we’re glad that they are also importing. They imported elephants from Swaziland as we speak. So now we can challenge them that they’re barring us from exporting to China yet they’re importing.

“So we will keep promoting the sale of live animals because it’s part of our Act that we must do sport hunting and also export live animals because it’s the most sustainable way of keeping our sizes very low because 80,000 elephants are unsustainable since our environment is being destroyed,” she said.

Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba said it was important for the government to deploy the army to the national parks to curb poaching.

“There is peace in Zimbabwe and our security forces are idle in the barracks at a time our elephants are being poached.

“We see our soldiers building schools yet we have critical points that need attention.

“Why can’t we take a 20,000 strong force and deploy them in Gonarezhou and Hwange National Parks to bust these poaching syndicates?

“We’re already paying these soldiers and they’ve the resources such as helicopters that they must use to fight these poachers.

“We want the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate and the Ministry of Defence and that of Home Affairs to deliberate over this and see how they can curb this poaching.

“We want our security forces to go to these critical points,” said Cde Chinotimba.

At least 55 elephants have been killed at the Hwange National Park through cyanide poisoning since early 2015.

Twenty-two of them were discovered on October 25, with three ivory tusks missing.

Globally, poaching and wildlife trafficking are highly lucrative businesses estimated to earn between $23 billion and $47 billion yearly.

They are jointly ranked fourth on the list of large-scale illegal trade after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

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