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60 rhinos killed in Save
60 rhinos killed in Save
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 18:24
Nelson Chenga, Staff Reporter
THE country lost about 60 rhinos in the past 10 years due to massive poaching activities in the Save Valley Conservancy, The Financial Gazette can reveal.
Half of the conservancy's 350 kilometre fence has been torn down and much of it is being used to snare animals in the game park. To make matters worse, villages estimated at about 2000 have been resettled inside the conservancy over the past five years.
Basil Nyabadza, chairperson of the Save Valley Conservancy, confirmed the unprecedented levels of poaching in an interview this week.
He said some of the poachers were coming from neighbouring countries such as Zambia, armed with automatic weapons.
"We had 130 rhinos about 10 years ago and the number went down to 71 due to heavy poaching. The figure has since risen to 100 rhinos due to good management which must be mantained," said Nyabadza, adding that new settlers and those who were allocated conservancies should adhere to rules and regulations meant to preserve wildlife.
There has been a spirited campaign by top ZANU-PF officials to seize the 3 400-square kilometre animal sanctuary under the guise of the country's controversial indigenisation and empowerment programme.
Because of its inland location, the Save Valley Conservancy had become the biggest private sanctuary for the endangered rhino species. It had become home to close to 90 percent of the country's rhino population since the early 1990s.
Previously, Raoul du Toit, the Lowveld Rhino Trust director, has said funding limitations in State areas such as national parks have resulted in steep rhino population declines.
Conservationists had allowed the rhino population in the Lowveld conservancies to build up from just four percent of the national rhino herd in 1990 to over 85 percent today. Now the rhino poaching pressures are concentrated on the few remaining viable populations of rhinos, especially the population in Save Valley, crippling the conservancy economically.
The practice could attract international attention.
There is increasing concern that more rhinos could be killed should the government delay resolution of the fallout between the Save Valley Conservancy farmers and some ZANU-PF politicians over conservancies in the wildlife area.
Government recently appointed Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to look into the matter.
The plight of the Save Valley Conservancy also has potential to damage the country's reputation ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in the resort town of Victoria Falls in August.
The September 2012 World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea recognised the key role of the private sector in rhino conservation. The congress noted that the increased risks and costs associated with securing the rhinos would possibly provide a disincentive for private owners and custodians of rhinos in eastern and southern Africa from investing in rhinos and conservation, especially in the major range in State of South Africa and also in Zimbabwe.