After Cecil, the Lion, Elephants are now paying the price

 

The Kariba Magistrate’s Court has just concluded the case of four (4) people arrested in possession of seven (7) elephant tusks and two (2) illegal guns – a .450 hunting rifle and a .303 rifle. These four were arrested in the Sebungwe area in the Matusadona National Park. Both the Matusadona Anti Poaching Project (MAPP) and Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit (BHAPU) played crucial roles in the arrest of the notorious, well-connected gang. MAPP reported that there were attempts to let them off easily because of this supposed connection.

Accordingly, the MAPP was exasperated when the Kariba Magistrate’s Court postponed hearing the case on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 due to the lack of a Tonga interpreter who was needed. The trial has since been concluded and the accused were sentenced as follows, according to MAPP’s Facebook page:

Accused 1: 9 years for illegal hunting and 4 years for an illegal firearm. One year was suspended; Accused 2 was sentenced to 9 years with hard labour for illegal hunting; Accused 3 suffered the same fate as Accused 1 whilst Accused 4, who was an accomplice to the crimes, got a 15-months wholly suspended sentence.

This case, recorded by the Zimbabwe Republic Police under Siakobvu CR21/10/2015, shows the growing threat to elephants in Kariba and surrounding safari areas. Matusadona National Park in northern Zimbabwe is one of the few places in Africa where great numbers of elephants still roam. The 404 square-mile wilderness adjacent to Lake Kariba forms part of a remarkable Tusker gene pool that is linked to Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks.

The area is largely inaccessible, with a rugged mountain range on one side and the lake on the other; so in the past Matusadona has been relatively free from poachers. As human pressure from surrounding areas intensifies, the wildlife is increasingly being targeted.

The national park is named after the Matuzviadonha Hills – a marvellous combination of flat plains and rugged mountain country. Matuzviadonha means falling dung in the local Kore-Kore dialect – a description of the dung balls that litter the mountain side from the elephants struggling their way up the slopes. Now they struggle even to survive. Where is our humanity?

Fortunately, the government has decided to take action. Read this article in The Herald: www.herald.co.zw/state-deploys-troops-to-parks/.

Poaching, however, remains a protected vocation for the “important” class. We are quick to parade and humiliate the common criminals – everyday fathers, brothers, men, women, mothers and sisters who are only responding to the prevailing economic situation. On the other hand, we protect “important” poachers. When investigative journalists attempt to expose these, they are jailed, as The Sunday Mail journalists found out recently. There lies the untold story of poaching – the people who fuel it are untouchable and even disguise themselves as wildlife conservation heroes and heroines.

By Laiton Kandawire