Poaching security threat: CIO boss

via Poaching security threat: CIO boss – The Zimbabwe Independent October 23, 2015

THE Director-General of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation, Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe and other African intelligence chiefs say wildlife poaching and trafficking is a national security issue, not just a conservation matter, as it is being conducted by sophisticated transnational organised criminal networks.

Wongai Zhangazha

Bonyongwe says illicit poaching and wildlife trafficking business is worth between US$7 billion and US$23 billion, and is the fourth biggest illicit trade worldwide after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking. Minutes of the 13th Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), chaired by Bonyongwe and attended by senior officials and intelligence experts from 16 African countries in Harare, in July last year, revealed that intelligence chiefs were concerned that proceeds from poaching and wildlife trafficking were being used to fund activities of “armed groups and negative forces, as well as other destabilising activities”.

The meeting was attended by officials from Angola, Botswana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia among others.

Intelligence bosses from different countries warned that if poaching is not checked, the elephant and rhino species could become extinct in the medium to long term.

Poaching has been rife in Zimbabwe and many other African countries, and only last week, 26 elephants were poisoned using cyanide in Hwange National Park.

A fortnight ago, 11 elephants were killed by cyanide poisoning in Hwange while three were found dead in Matusadona National Park, in Kariba. The killing of the jumbos comes two years after poachers killed more than 300 elephants using cyanide in Hwange National Park. Several animal species among them lions, cheetahs, hyenas, vultures, zebras and warthogs were also killed, causing an international outcry.

In a summary of his keynote address captured in the minutes of the meeting, Bonyongwe, who is also the chairperson of CISSA, said poaching had become highly sophisticated with the use of military grade helicopters, automatic weapons, night vision equipment and other advanced tactical gear, hence the need for the intervention of the security sector.

“The illicit poaching and wildlife trafficking business is believed to be worth between US$7 billion and US$23 billion, becoming the fourth biggest illicit trade worldwide after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking,” said Bonyongwe.

“… Poaching and trafficking activities are now conducted by sophisticated transnational criminal networks. This menace has threatened not only the security of the countries, where these activities are carried out, but has negatively impacted on wildlife-driven tourism.

“Similarly, there is substantial evidence of fledgling linkages between poaching and wildlife trafficking on one hand and transnational organised criminal activities, including terrorism and weapons proliferation on the other hand.

“There are indications that some of the proceeds from poaching are being used to fund the activities of armed groups and negative forces, as well as other destabilising activities.”

Conservationists believe that Africa is losing elephants and rhinos through a combination of determined criminal gangs, corrupt government officials and a strong market for smuggled ivory especially in Asian countries, among them China.

Early this month, a 66-year-old Chinese woman Yang Fenglan, popularly known as “ivory queen” was arrested after a dramatic high speed chase in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She had allegedly smuggled 706 elephant tusks to China. Yang is alleged to have operated in Tanzania for 14 years as the main link between poachers and international buyers.

Bonyongwe recommended specialised training courses for park rangers, international collaboration and intelligence sharing among CISSA members as some of the ways to combat poaching. An unnamed officials from Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said poachers and traffickers operating in Zimbabwe were using networks and routes stretching from Botswana through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique to markets overseas.

“To this end, counter poaching operations had resulted in the recovery of weapons, ammunition, as well as the arrest of foreign nationals involved in the illicit business,” read the minutes.

Given the escalating trend of poaching and wildlife trafficking, the Zimbabwean official indicated the menace should assume high prominence on the agenda of regional security mechanisms, where stakeholders routinely exchange perspectives and share information. An intelligence representative from South Sudan said poaching in his country had been worsened by the emerging connections between poaching and transnational organised crime and terrorism.

He indicated that South Sudan was particularly vulnerable due to the fact that it had experienced decades of civil war, a situation which provided a pretext for the Lord Resistance Army to engage in rampant poaching and illicit ivory trade in the country. As part of the recommendations governments were encouraged to use modern technology, including triggers to detect security fence breaches, tracking devices to monitor the movement of animals and unmanned drones for surveillance and to gather intelligence. Specialised training courses for parks officials and game rangers to cover the latest trends in poaching and wildlife trafficking, crime scene management as well as giving adequate resources to parks and wildlife authorities were also recommended.

A high profile engagement and education campaign targeting the market countries, especially China, where the demand is said to be high, was also suggested by the intelligence chiefs. Intelligence chiefs further suggested that communities living close to parks and game reserves should be engaged as they could be critical in supplying vital intelligence.


  • comment-avatar
    C Frizell 8 years ago

    Yep, Zimbabwe’s “permanent friends” up to mischief – as usual!

  • comment-avatar
    Grabmore 8 years ago

    Zimbabwe has so many war veterans and such an amazing army with such brilliant generals…. but they can’t protect a few elephants and Rhinos?

  • comment-avatar
    Barry Groulx 8 years ago

    The real reason they’re getting excited about it now is because a significant amount of the money from trafficking winds up with ISIS and other terror organisations and if local governments don’t start doing something about it, guys like the SEAL teams will be coming calling in the night to do it themselves.

  • comment-avatar

    CIO force anti-poaching expert to flee

    Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives are heavily involved in poaching threatened wildlife species, according to an anti-poaching expert.
    Rory Young, an ardent conservationist who is involved in training locals in anti-poaching techniques in various countries in Africa, recently fled Zimbabwe with his family for an un-disclosed destination following threats from named CIO operatives.
    Young, who confirmed to The Zimbabwean that he was involved in anti-poaching training throughout Africa, said problems started when the Zimbabwean government gave him the authority to train police details and scouts in the Nyaminyami area – but certain CIO agents in Kariba did not like the idea.
    “On my way to do further training of Zimbabwe Republic Police and scouts in the Nyaminyami area I received a message from a third party to report to the Office of the President in Kariba. After a full and long interrogation I was told that I was not allowed to train anyone and if I did I would be arrested,” he said.
    Shut up
    Young informed the CIO operatives that he had been given authority by the Zimbabwe Republic Police General Headquarters and had been granted a two year residence permit to carry out the training – but they would not listen to him.
    “I was told to shut up (and they said) that they were above the police and that even if I had done nothing wrong they would find a reason to arrest me and throw away the key unless I stayed away from the area and did no training in Zimbabwe,” he said.
    Young attributed the resistance to his training initiative to the fact that the secret service agents were involved in poaching and trafficking of wild animals. He said the CIO officers openly boasted that they were working with two unnamed Europeans employed by some NGOs in Kariba who informed them about whatever happened in the wildlife areas, adding that they would easily know of his activities if he went ahead with his anti-poaching activities.
    After his encounter with the agents, Young decided to discontinue training activities in the area. But he continued to use Zimbabwe as a base as he carried out similar activities in other countries. However, the secret service continued to make threats on his life as a way of ensuring that he did not return to the area.
    “Unfortunately CIO didn’t stop there and we began to hear via third parties that they were making more threats against me, obviously to ensure I didn’t come back to the area.
    “They wanted me and anyone like me far away from Matusadona and Nyaminyami. I subsequently heard that another well-known international anti-poaching organisation was told to stay away and also threatened,” added Young.
    He said he went through prolonged fear every time he returned to Zimbabwe from other countries, fearing that he could be abducted. And all the while he watched helplessly while elephants were being killed in Matusadona and Nyaminyami.
    Desperate for cash
    “Now you know who is behind the poaching of the elephants in Northern Zimbabwe and why we left the country. Mugabe’s government is desperate for cash and this is why they are going to the extremes they are, such as tearing wild baby elephants away from their mothers and herds and sending them to China.