Bushmeat poachers target Victoria Falls wildlife

Bushmeat poachers target Victoria Falls wildlife

By Nokuthaba Dlamini for Newsday in Zimbabwe

Growing demand for bushmeat during Covid-19 lockdowns has decimated wild animals roaming the streets of Zimbabwe’s main resort town, Victoria Falls, conservationists say.

The Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU) said animals such as warthogs that roam the town are now hard to find as they have been killed by poachers, who use snares.

“Primarily due to Covid-19, many resident warthogs in the city of Victoria Falls have been poached,” VFAPU said.

“(In April) one of the surviving families (four of them) ventured into the bush near CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) park and sadly three of them were trapped.

“Thank you to the concerned residents of Victoria Falls who had heard the cries of the warthogs, for chasing the poacher, who had already shot one of the pigs.” VFAPU said that between January and October this year, 63 suspected poachers were apprehended around Victoria Falls.

The anti-poaching unit removed 563 snares and another 309 snares were identified by Zambezi Horse Safaris.

During the period, 28 trapped animals were rescued.

Trevor Lane, founder of Bhejane Trust, a non-profit organization that seeks to protect wild animals in the region, said the trapping of animals by poachers had become a cause for concern.

“The issue of clogging is a major concern for us,” Lane said.

“Poachers take advantage of small fines where you can get a suspended sentence and community service or a fine.

“While we appreciate the way the courts deal with cases according to the law, we believe that the sentences should be harsher in order to send a message because the problem around these crimes is that the offenders will do it for commercial gain. .”

The President of the Employers Association for Tour Operators and Tour Operators, Clement Mukwasi, said the decimation of wildlife in Victoria Falls is now seriously affecting their business.

“Covid-19 has exposed many wildlife in our nearby parks and around town to poaching because continued closures meant there was no monitoring of activities around wildlife crime and due to losses massive jobs in the industry, people have opted for self-help as income streams have diminished,” Mukwasi said.

“Wildlife around the city has become part of our way of life and visitors enjoy this sense of urban wilderness in harmony with nature and through our bush safaris in areas such as the Zambezi.

National Park and with poaching in these areas this means there is a reduced variety of animals to see.

“We wouldn’t want to find ourselves in a situation where that continues to happen because it kills our tourism.”

Wildlife trapping also affects villagers living on the outskirts of Victoria Falls, as their livestock are caught in the traps.

Lifa Nekatambe from the village of Monde, about 15 kilometers from Victoria Falls, said he had lost livestock to traps set by poachers.

“In May two of my calves were trapped and killed while in November last year one of my bulls suffered serious neck injuries when poachers set snares on the Masuwe River where our animals drink,” Nekatambe said.

“The pain these poachers have inflicted is too great and they are barely known, but we understand that they are criminals who target wildlife and it keeps getting worse,”

In February this year, Victoria Falls council worker Clemence Ncube was arrested and taken to court for running over a warthog with her vehicle before skinning it.

At the time, prosecutors said he punched the animal in the airfield area and skinned it at his residence in Chinotimba.

He was found guilty on his own guilty plea and fined $20,000 (£46) in local Zimbabwean currency.

This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism program, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in Africa and bring more African voices into the international conservation debate. Articles written by the Mozambican and Angolan cohorts are translated from Portuguese. The broadcast stories remain in the original language.

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