Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has adopted new technologies to try and combat poaching in its parks which have started yielding positive results.
Poaching is rife in the country and it attracts a minimum mandatory nine-year jail sentence but it has not deterred poaching activities.
In 2013 the poaching of 400 elephants at Hwange National Park near Tsholotsho through cyanide poisoning attracted global attention on poaching activities in the country. Following that incident, Government embarked on anti-poaching campaigns targeting local communities as they are usually engaged by poaching syndicates who use them as cheap labour in their illegal activities.
Speaking at the ZimParks stand during the just ended Matabeleland South Agricultural Show, the authourity’s Matobo region business enterprise manager, Mr Patridge Marimbe said some of the technologies being used include real time cameras, cyber trackers among others.
Some of the systems were previously used for research purposes.
“We are embracing the new normal for conserving wildlife and we have adopted some new technologies in our anti-poaching activities.
We have technologies like real time cameras that are basically monitored from our control stations and we have had incidents where we have actually managed to catch some of the poachers while in the act using real time cameras,” he said.
Mr Marimbe said they had also introduced GPS tracking systems and satellite collars. He said some of these methods had previously been usedforpresearch purposes but had now been integrated into anti-poaching activities.
He said the systems were not only helping to track the activities of poachers and animals but to also come up with an established data system that can help in research and improve conservation methods. He said cyber trackers were also being used to monitor poachers and animals.
Mr Marimbe said they had also recently introduced a dogs section in the region to help track down poachers. He said this strategy had been proven very reliable. He said as usual fully armed rangers were still on the ground tackling poaching activities. Mr Marimbe said before being deployed the rangers had to be first thoroughly trained and equipped.
He said communities remained an integral part of anti-poaching.
“These modern technologies are being implemented in phases but in our region, we have most of these systems in operation.
Some have been in operation for some time but they were being used for research purposes. We are now using them for conservation methods.
Our region used to have a major challenge in terms of poaching activities, especially of the rhino but we have started recording significant improvement after introducing these new systems,” he said.
Mr Marimbe said they had also introduced new revenue channels within the authority, among them refreshment centres such as the Tshabalala Refreshment Centre in Bulawayo.
He said these were models they are targeting to replicate throughout the country in all recreational parks.
Mr Marimbe said as part of efforts to incorporate communities in conservation efforts they allow communities to harvest thatching grass in the parks as a way of improving their livelihoods while at the same time it is a conservation method of reducing veld fires.
He said farmers were also allowed to harvest hay bales for their animals. – @DubeMatutu.