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2 dead rhinos found at Mahofa’s ranch . . . police, Zimparks probe case

2 dead rhinos found at Mahofa’s ranch . . . police, Zimparks probe case
Sen Mahofa

Sen Mahofa

George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) and other law enforcers have opened investigations into the killing of two rhinos that were de-horned and buried in pits at Masvingo Provincial Affairs ’s 5000-hectare Savuli Ranch in the Save Valley Conservancy.

The minister took over operations at Savuli after she was issued with a 25-year lease by Government under the wildlife-based land reform programme. Carcasses of the endangered animals at Sen Mahofa’s ranch were discovered in April this year and early this month. The first carcass was discovered by Zimparks rangers in April. The rhinos’ remains were buried in a shallow pit, with the horns missing.

At the beginning of this month, another patrol team of Zimparks rangers stumbled upon another carcass of a male rhino, aged between eight and nine months, buried in a pit at Sen Mahofa’s property. Both horns had also been removed and a bullet head was found at the scene.

Zimparks acting public relations manager Mr Simukai Nyasha yesterday said investigations were underway to establish full information behind the killing of the animals. “The first carcass found at the end of April was buried underground and we suspect this was done to conceal it from being seen by people. Investigations are underway to establish circumstances surrounding this incident,’’ he said.

“Early June this year another carcass of a sub-adult male rhino was also discovered by Zimparks rangers on patrol at SVC’s Savuli Ranch and a bullet head was found at the scene. Zimparks has intensified investigations and patrols in the area with assistance from other law enforcement agencies,’’ he added.

Mr Nyasha said no arrest had been made to date. Sen Mahofa expressed shock over the discovery of the two carcasses at her property and said she suspected that the killing of the rhinos was a co-ordinated move to soil her image.

She said what was surprising was that the two rhinos were shot in an area patrolled daily by private guards, Zimparks rangers and other volunteers from adjacent white-owned properties in Save Valley.

“The carcasses were found about 5km from my lodge at Savuli and approximately 0,5km from an adjacent property (Mapari) that is owned by a white man and what boggles the mind is how my private guards, Zimparks rangers and volunteer rangers from other adjacent properties could have failed to hear the gunshots?’’ she said.

“We will wait to hear from what Zimparks will say after their investigations. While it is true that rhinos prefer to graze in my property, I suspect that my neighbouring white conservancy operators might be behind this heinous killing of the rhinos to tarnish my name,’’ she added.

Sen Mahofa said the killing of the two rhinos and their subsequent burial at her property, was an attempt to force Government to revoke her lease adding that white conservancy operators who were the predominant property owners at SVC were against the presence of blacks.

“I wrote to Zimparks requesting that those volunteer rangers be blocked from coming to my property, only my private rangers and those from Zimparks should remain because I do not trust these volunteers who work closely with the white operators.

“I am the only black person who remained there and my white counterparts are not happy with my presence,’’ she said. Sen Mahofa was among scores of people from Masvingo who were issued with 25-year leases to venture into conservancy operations at SVC a few years ago.

However, Government at the instigation of the Zanu-PF Politburo, withdrew the leases of all other indigenous beneficiaries save for Sen Mahofa. The leases were withdrawn on the grounds that most of the beneficiaries were multiple farm owners.

Sen Mahofa defended the move to spare her from removal at SVC. “Government saw it fit for me to remain at Savuli Ranch because of the work that I have been doing to train college and university students on wildlife operations. “The white players at SVC are reluctant to assist black students so that knowledge about wildlife remains their exclusive preserve,’’ said Sen Mahofa.

“So far I have taken on attachment scores of students mainly from Chinhoyi University of Technology who are studying wildlife and I will continue to do so and this is what is miffing my white counterparts hence the thrust to try and tarnish my name as a way of forcing Government to kick me out,’’ she added.

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