ZIMBABWE has recorded a decline in poaching at the Hwange National Park, which hosts the world’s largest elephant population, authorities have said.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) said harsh jail sentences coupled with various interventions such as joint patrols with wildlife agencies had proved to be deterrents to would-be poachers.
A total of 36 wildlife animals were poached in 2022, down from 42 in 2021.
At least 322 elephants were killed by poachers between 2016 and 2019, largely for their tusks.
ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said poaching had been on a decline, with no cases recorded in 2023 at the game park.
“Poaching has gone down in Zimbabwe. In Hwange, we have been doing extremely well in terms of managing our wildlife,” Farawo said.
“We are not doing this in isolation, but we also work closely with others like the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the World Wildlife Fund, the African Wildlife Foundation and many others too many to mention in fighting poaching.”
Elephants and rhinos are targeted by poachers for their horns, which are coveted mostly in Asian countries.
In Asia, where the horns are mainly exported to due to high demand, the protein is believed to have medicinal properties although there is no scientific evidence for this.
In 2018, then Environment, Water and Climate Change minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri urged ZimParks rangers to adopt a shoot to kill policy.
In May last year, ZimParks rangers shot and killed two suspected poachers during a shootout at Rifa Conservation Camp in Chirundu.
Farawo said the tough anti-poaching measures were proving to be a deterrent.
“In terms of partnerships, what we are calling conservation partnerships, they are also helping us in terms of resources such as vehicles, refresher courses for our rangers and it has helped a lot because we are now more visible in communities,” Farawo said.
“We are now more visible in the parks, which is deterring would-be poachers. The mandatory nine-year sentence has also proved to be a deterrent.”