Government is in the process of setting up a multi-stakeholder anti-poaching unit as it steps up efforts to reduce poaching and promote conservation of wildlife.
The unit comprising the ZRP, Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe National Army, rural district councils, National Prosecuting Authority, Judiciary, non-governmental organisations and hunters’ association also seeks to help minimise human-wildlife conflict.
Communities would be represented through the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources — CAMPFIRE — project operated by rural district councils.
In an interview, Zimparks director-general Dr Fulton Mangwanya said although poaching was on the decline there was need to eradicate the scourge.
“As Zimparks, we realised that alone we cannot achieve much in terms of wildlife conservation and what we are trying to do is to rope in others to assist us,” he said.
Dr Mangwanya said the crime prevention unit involving multi-stakeholders would involve everyone working on wildlife or those who could contribute to the reduction of wildlife crimes.
The unit is expected to be operational in the next six months.
He said they had apprehended several criminals who were found in possession of ivory and the unit would go a long way to ensure that wildlife crimes were minimised.
The judiciary and National Prosecuting Authority, Dr Mangwanya said, were roped in to expedite the handling of wildlife crimes.
“The judiciary will help to expeditiously deal with wildlife crimes and we have had engagements with them which have seen someone being arrested with ivory today and tomorrow they have been sentenced to nine years in jail,” he said.
“There has been an improvement and we want that to continue. That is the efficiency we are talking about and we would like to applaud the Judiciary. Some of the poachers would be arrested and released on bail several times and eventually they are killed after contact with rangers.”
The police would be involved in gathering watertight evidence to ensure successful prosecution of culprits.
Zimbabwe has an impeccable record of wildlife conservation which has seen the population of elephants growing to around 85 000, which is above its carrying capacity of 55 000 elephants.
This would be complemented by training of youths in communities bordering national parks such as Doma in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central, Tsholotsho and San communities in Plumtree.
“We are working closely with communities so that they appreciate that the wildlife resource belongs to them and they should help in protecting it,” said Dr Mangwanya.
“They should benefit through things like setting up lodges on the boundaries of our Game Parks.
“Projects are already ongoing like in Tsholotsho and Doma where we have recruited about 10 unemployed youths from the communities. We train them and they will graduate soon and go back to the community to assist in conservation.” Former Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu was recently arrested after being found in possession of eight pieces of ivory weighing 120kgs in one of the prominent case reported this year.