Zimbabwe winning rhino poaching war

via Zimbabwe winning rhino poaching war – New Zimbabwe 26/09/2015

ZIMBABWE appears to be winning the battle to save its depleted rhino population against syndicated poachers as the number killed has gone down significantly from 60 animals in 2013 to six in the past 15 months.

Figures released by wildlife organisations last week to mark the World Rhino Day, show that rhino poaching is on the decline after the government and conservation experts adopted a raft of measures including stiff prison terms for convicted poachers.

Dehorning the rhinos and satellite tracking has also helped curb poaching, in the process boosting the country’s tourism.

In the late 1980s, Zimbabwe had a rhino population of about 2,000 but the numbers have crashed to just 766 this year.

Between 2007 and 2009, the country faced an upsurge in rhino poaching with a quarter of the animal’s population being killed.

Rhino poaching is largely fuelled by rising demand in Asia, especially in Vietnam and China, where rhino horns are prized as a status symbol and believed to possess various medicinal properties.

“The low figures (of rhino population) call for all Zimbabweans to be involved in creating better strategies to protect endangered species.

“The World Rhino Day is a day we should use to raise awareness. We want less rhinos to die,” Environment Africa country director, Barnabas Mawire said.

The International Rhino Foundation, which has been working with a local conservation trust, the Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT), said the decrease in rhino poaching can be attributed to anti-poaching efforts, tracking and monitoring.

The animals have also been translocated from high-risk areas in Hwange and the Zambezi Valley to safer areas in the Lowveld and private conservancies while local communities have also cooperated in building support for rhino conservation.

“These translocations, combined with improved security, have decreased poaching enough that births now outnumber losses and the population is again slowly growing,” the International Rhino Foundation said.

“Over the last three to four years, the rhino population has been growing annually between five and 10 percent, which bodes well for the species’ future.

“The team is hopeful that another 100 calves could be born in the next five years.”

However, despite the achievements being recorded in protecting the animal, there are still high levels of poaching in the Hwange area where over 300 elephants and other animals died due to cyanide poisoning by poachers.

In the recent past, senior government officials, politicians and high ranking military officials have been implicated of working with the poachers and the local communities in the poaching syndicates.