ENVIRONMENT minister Oppah Muchinguri has disclosed that 11 suspected poachers were shot and killed last year as the country’s security agents joined hands to clamp down on the illegal hunting of wild animals.
Addressing Parliament last week, Muchinguri said the suspects included five foreigners and six locals.
The minister told the National Assembly that poaching had become a national security issue, hence efforts to combat it through the Joint Operations Command (JOC).
“Countrywide, law enforcement efforts resulted in detection of 2 139 incursions and arrest of 1 354 local and 129 foreign poachers,” Muchinguri said.
“There was a decline in the number of armed contacts from 26 in 2014 to 23 in 2015 and 13 poachers were killed in 2014, while 11 were killed in 2015,” she said.
Of the poachers killed in 2015, two were killed in Mabalauta, three at Save Valley Conservancy, three at Matusadona National Park, two at Chirisa Safari Area, one at Sengwa and two at Chizarira National Park.
“The issue of strengthening our law enforcement effort through joint operations with other law enforcement agencies was identified as an immediate strategy to address the rampant poaching. We have been engaging with JOC in the past and we will continue to engage them for assistance in order to deal with this scourge,” she said.
“Currently, additional manpower was deployed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in Matopos National Park, Zambezi Valley, Sinamatella Camp and Hwange Main Camp to address both wildlife protection and illegal gold mining. We have established special reaction teams around the country with the assistance of JOC.”
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe director-general Edson Chidziya last week told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment that elephants and rhinos were the mostly sought animals by poachers, adding as a result, the rhino population has dwindled from 2 500 in the ’90s to 2 000 currently.
“In 2013, we experienced ugly episodes of cyanide-poisoning in Hwange and we lost 115 animals, and last year, we lost 100 elephants. Thirty-two of the elephants were lost at one particular site. Poisoning is a new phenomenon of poaching that we are trying to fight,” he said.
In 2015, Chidziya said, 176 wildlife crimes were recorded, while 74 were concluded by the courts, with sentences for the crimes ranging from nine to 11 years.