FIGHTING THE POACHING THREAT

Kariba’s natural resources such as wildlife (including fish) and water are under increasing threat on several fronts. Cases of poaching reaching the courts are on the rise. The number of elephant carcasses discovered during anti-snare and other patrols are disheartening. Fish resources are dwindling fast as Lake Kariba water temperatures rise and zooplankton, which forms a major component of the fishes’ diet, is decimated. Water itself is overstretched due to both human and natural causes such as increased evaporation. Electricity production is threatened. All seems lost for Kariba. The future looks bleak. The decline in elephant population in the larger Kariba area has been described as “catastrophic” by Mark Brightman who heads the Bumi Hills Ant-Poaching Unit (BHAPU). The recent Great Elephant Census conducted throughout Africa and funded by Microsoft’s Paul G. Allen showed that elephant populations in the larger Kariba area have decreased by 75% from around 14,000 in 2006 to a current population of around 3,500, according to the latest issue of Zambezi Traveller. Without the wildlife, the fish and the water, Kariba will lose its uniqueness, value and appeal. The Kariba Animal Welfare Trust (KAWT) needs our unwavering support. So does the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (MAPP). So do the Gache Gache Anti-Poaching Unit and many other volunteer efforts being exerted in preserving our wildlife resources. Without these resources our very own lives will be threatened. The fight must now be taken to the real poachers in the offices, not the runners in the bush. As soon as they are arrested, these runners are replaced by others who are equipped to the teeth with the latest poaching armoury. Fighting poaching requires destroying the markets and arresting the big wigs fuelling it. The token fight of catching the runners who are soon replaced should be taken to a more serious level. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority should have a more meaningful presence in our communities and educate the masses. Here I have to quote the words of Mark Brightman whose sentiments I share. Brightman says: “In order to combat the poaching and other threats affecting flora and fauna in the Kariba area, a more holistic approach needs to be taken. In the long term, lasting solutions need to be found to alleviate the plight of the local community, which in turn will allow them to survive without resorting to illegal methods.”