Zim must up fight against poachers

via Zim must up fight against poachers – DailyNews Live 16 February 2016

HARARE – Zimbabwe must reciprocate the international community’s support in the fight against illegal poaching.

This comes after the director-general of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) Edson Chidziya told Parliament yesterday that poaching in the country’s nature reserves was skyrocketing alarmingly.

Zimbabwe must show the world that we are serious about curbing the illegal trade in wildlife by invoking national laws to crack down on offenders.

That’s why we fully back Chidziya’s proposal that government must impose stiffer penalties on poachers as they are increasingly compelled to continue with the crime due to the lax fines imposed.

We also agree with his proposal that there should be specialised environmental courts, and that a specialised court should deal with and look into issues of the environment and wildlife preservation.

Clearly, Zimbabwe is facing a big threat and cannot afford to be complacent. Wildlife and forest crime demands a global solution through joint operations, intelligence sharing and strong and compatible national legislations.

It is disconcerting that our wildlife herd is declining at an alarming rate in areas lacking a security force to protect them.

And more worryingly are revelations that local law enforcement agents are now caught up in the illegal activities.

The ZimParks director-general told Parliament that the increase in poaching activities over the years may also signal that law enforcement agents are also involved in the crime.

We cannot afford to leave our valuables unprotected. Guards patrol art galleries and museums to secure our cultural heritage. We should be taking the same approach to safeguarding our natural heritage.

The most effective protection inevitably involves the long-term efforts of committed park rangers patrolling protected areas with the endorsement and support of local communities. Wildlife guards are deployed by the national governments, which gives them the legal authority and mandate to operate and, in some cases, the core financing to do so. Other agencies work in partnership with those governments to give them both technical and financial support to combat poaching.

Nevertheless, for a poor government such as ours, we are clearly striving against the odds to protect our wildlife. This means outside support for salaries, vehicles and equipment is crucial.

At present, support, not including weapons, comes largely from non-governmental organisations, with their generous private donors, and from national government agencies like the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. More money — and the resulting increase in the number and effectiveness of guards — is crucial to the survival of many species targeted by poachers.