|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
ZNSPCA UPDATE 25 MARCH 2005
With another election in just one week’s time, as always we are hopeful that this will finally mean a turn in the road and the devastating crisis will finally come to an end in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, political violence has reared its ugly head again despite some attempt by authorities to prevent the previously unchecked level of violence. As always, animals become helpless victims in these situations. In Makoni (near Mutare) 13 chickens and a turkey sitting on her eggs were burnt alive when huts belonging to the opposition Chairman were set alight. No arrests have been made but Police and ZNSPCA continue their enquiries.
It has been a time of evolution and change for our Society as we grapple with the worsening situation and the continuing exodus of supporters and volunteers. Recent estimates put the dwindling anglo population at a mere 12,000.
We were devastated by Meryl Harrison’s decision to leave us at the end of 2004 but could not skip a beat in order to keep up with the never-ending reports and appeals for help. We are indebted to Meryl for the vital role she played during the height of the farm rescues and wish her everything of the best, having put her life on hold for the past few years to dedicate herself to the animals of Zimbabwe.
Fortunately, we were in the throes of expanding our network of mobile Inspectors and we commend this small, tireless band of men and women for rising to the challenge of coping with the escalating problems throughout the country.
Simon Chikadaya continues to attend to all reports in the Mashonaland area, ably assisted by the gentle and hardworking Mathias Tengaruwa who has made a name for himself in local rural communities where he conducts education programs and treats animals belonging to villagers.
John Chikomo continues his excellent work in Masvingo Province and now includes Beitbridge in his patrols where the temperature averages 40º in summer. This area supports a large donkey population on which many locals depend for their livelihood. *
A serious problem has developed along the Betibridge roads to Bulawayo and Masvingo. Nearly all of the fencing along the some 600kms of road has been removed and donkeys and cows are being killed on these heavily trafficked roads daily. A member called in last week to say that he stopped counting the bodies after he reached 40. This is obviously difficult work for our Inspector’s as every animal has to be checked because many are still alive and have to be euthanaised. We thank NSPCA-SA yet again for providing us with additional equipment for this work.
A sinister aspect of the disappearing fences is that the wire is being used to produce thousands of snares. In just a single sweep of one conservancy, hundreds of snares were recovered. *
John is now providing outreach to Mashava and Zvishavane which no longer have committees and Chiredzi which no longer has an Inspector.
This year John has already secured 12 convictions for cruelty in his region – the major cases:
· Two abbatoirs were convicted and operation suspended for not pre-stunning animals. *
· The owner of a resort club was convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to 5 horses which were found in a starved condition. *
· A co-op in Bikita was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to 32 pigs which were found suffering from starvation and infected mange. *
· The Warden of Kyle National Park was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to 4 horses found in a starved condition. *
· A resident of Masvingo was convicted under the Cruelty Act and Parks Act after he was caught trying to sell an endangered Pangolin on the roadside. *
· Another resident was convicted for keeping a monkey chained up in his back-yard.
We have a new Regional Inspector in the Matabeleland province, Glynis Vaughan, who leaves everyone in awe at her energy, courage and determination. She has already found herself in difficult situations surrounded by hundreds of hostile settlers but has proved her mettle and our six foot ‘blonde bombshell’ is already well respected by local communities. *
She has been spending a great deal of time in Hwange, Vic Falls and Gweru assisted by Edmore Takaopwa from Bulawayo. * These are all centres that no longer have neither a committee nor an Inspector of their own. They returned yesterday from a trip to Hwange to follow up an incident of three Lions being poisoned by a farmer. National Parks and ZNSPCA will both be pressing charges.
Prior to that they were in Vic Falls for several days attending to a huge feral cat problem in this tourists resort and were very successful with their capture exercise. Simon has been attending to a similar problem in Kariba but the cats in this area are proving to be very wily and have learned to hook food through the sides of the cages. The Regional Inspectors will engage in a joint exercise to capture the estimated 200 cats.
The main focus this year has been the recovery of horses. Hundreds of animals were left behind in the aftermath of the land invasions. The sights that our team has had to deal with have been quite heartbreaking, including a poor animal that all agreed was this ‘thinnest’ horse they had ever encountered. She also bore quite horrendous saddle sores. *
Most of the horses are euthanaised to prevent any further suffering or trauma. The horses being recovered of late are seriously stressed and emaciated. A few are young and strong enough to be rehabilitated and we commend Claire & Mark Evans, Sue Calasse and April & Angus Thompson in Mashonaland and Claire Einhorn in Matabeleland who have devoted themselves to repairing the physical and psychological damage in order to give some a second chance. This is obviously a costly undertaking with each horse requiring about three months of care, feeding and patient attention to recover from their horrendous ordeals. *
Unfortunately, we will also be bidding farewell to the Evans family who are moving to the UK next month. Sue and the Thompsons will continue with this important work.
The crippling poverty which is gripping the country is taking its toll on humans and animals alike. The teams are now taking bags of pet food and livestock pellets on their patrols to distribute in some of the worst affected areas.
The land debacle coupled with poor rains has resulted in food shortages which is having a devastating impact. There are still disputes involving livestock being held for ransom. In Karoi, Simon has been meeting with all parties on a farm in Tengwe where ex-workers are demanding ‘packages’ in return for releasing the owner’s cattle. The ex-farmer cannot pay ‘packages’ unless he sells the cattle. Negotiations continue with ZNSPCA pressing for the removal of the cattle. The national herd is now estimated to have dwindled to some 200,000 head. *
On another farm in Ruwa workers went on strike, also demanding ‘packages’ and refused to feed the horses and diary goats. Simon and Mathias worked tirelessly to feed all the animals and with assistance from workers from a neighbouring farm milked all the goats (another new experience for the team). The Police and Union were called and although the matter has still not been resolved, some workers have returned to work.
Despite there being no current national statistics available for the number of wild animals remaining in Zimbabwe and despite concerns being voiced, even by safari operators themselves, the usual hunting quotas were auctioned a fortnight ago with no change in the number of animals being offered. Buffalo went for around Z$150,000,000 each and Lion went for up to Z$190,000,000. Around Six and a Half Billion was raised from the auction.
We received a disturbing report from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force concerning the hunting of animals in Hwange National Park to provide food in ‘Operation Nyama’. Animals hunted include bull elephants with 60 – 70 pound tusks whilst older bulls with broken tusks are left unharmed. This activity equates to ‘canned’ hunting as the animals in Hwange have always been at ease with humans, having been protected and encouraged to present themselves at man-made waterholes for appreciation by tourists. Several tourists have expressed their disgust having witnessed the slaughter and have reportedly cut short their visits. Tourists also report spotting very little game, either because there are fewer animals or because the animals have been scared away by the hunting. Hunting still continues in areas bordering the Park. ‘Operation Nyama’ is also taking place in other areas – this is on top of all the meat from regulated hunting. One operator also reports that trees at Cathedral Mopani Woodlands is currently being felled by locals. We understand that this is a World Heritage Site.
Closer to Harare, finally after a lengthy game of ‘cat and mouse’ with ZNSPCA Inspectors and Police, a vendor who has been selling rabbits and very young puppies on the roadside for several months has finally been apprehended. The perpetrator always picked his spot carefully and had become adept at evading our Inspectors. A ZNSPCA Council member received a tip-off that he had been seen and accompanied by 2 policemen from Highlands finally nabbed the vendor who still had two very thin and dejected puppies in his possession. The vendor was fined $200,000 and will appear is court if he is caught again and will then face 6 months in prison. Last week, Justine and Nigel accompanied by a police detail went out at night to track down the back-yard breeder from whom he was sourcing the puppies. We suspect the breeders were tipped off as although Justine found cages and coops, there was no sign of any puppies. We commend Highlands Police for their excellent co-operation with this case. * We will endeavour to acquire some strong spotlights and the team will carry out further night searches.
There are several other prosecutions resulting from Simon’s work in Mashonaland. A security company is being charged for cruelty – all the dogs had been taken from Tredar during the invasions when all the security dogs were abandoned by their handlers (ref earlier reports *). The dogs confiscated were all very old and thin and have been euthanaised. *
We welcome Jimmy Zuze back to the national team who will be providing coverage for Midlands Province and the Kariba area which Simon and Mathias have been trying to cover as well but there are now just too many reports for one team to cope with. There are at least another 100 horses to be uplifted in the northern Provinces. We were fortunate to receive the donation of another horse-box which will be used by the Matabeleland team. The team have also requested that we engage another trainee Inspector as they are becoming overwhelmed by the endless reports and requests for help. Zimbabwe is 390,245 Km² in size (about the size of California).
We have just about finished fixing up our little HQ in Harare and Roslyn Varkevisser will also be joining us next month to provide better support for the Inspectors, deal with the ever mounting corresponded and administrative work, co-ordinate the distribution of supplies which are often required urgently, cope with all the reports and queries and better monitor the whereabouts of our teams. We thank all the generous companies and individuals who provided materials or their time to help fix up the office, stores and holding pens. We greatly appreciate the support of IFAW in providing radios for all our National Inspectors and assistance with strengthening our security measures. The teams are in touch with each other via radios and cellular connections (dependant on location and terrain) but in the event that they find themselves barricaded in, which has happened on several occasions, we can call for assistance to have them extracted more quickly.
It is extraordinary how accepting we have all become of the situation and ‘matter of fact’ about being threatened, intimidated, searched or barricaded in – because this is currently the ‘norm’. We must again commend out Inspectors for their truly outstanding dedication, bravery and resilience.
The presence of entirely more ‘mobile’ Inspectors is having a most positive effect despite the prevailing situation. This proactive approach is resulting in very effective cruelty prevention, with communities and local authorities being very supportive and providing information about animals in distress – a few recent examples:
· A small pick-up was impounded carrying 45 adult goats which were literally piled on top of each other. Owner fined. *
· A vulture with a broken wing was found on Dana Farm and is being treated by Chisipite vets.
· Severely injured donkeys in Mvurwi were impounded and treated – owner being prosecuted. *
· Several dogs belonging to settlers have been brought in and assisted by the ZNSPCA consultant vet at Kamfinsa, Rudo, including a male dog called ‘Spider’ who had to have an eye removed.
We greatly appreciate the ongoing support we are receiving from so many individuals and organisations who have not forgotten about us and continue to help, often from very far away.
From 15 SPCA’s in 2002, we are down to 9 SPCA’s and without the tremendous encouragement and support so generously provided, we would not have been able to expand our national team to fill the void.
Thank you all for standing by us.