Simiso Mlevu Online Reporter
Conservationists have launched a petition to save the Presidential Herd of Elephants following reports that some people have occupied Kanondo conservation area in Hwange. The Presidential Herd are elephants found in Hwange Game Park and given the name after President Robert Mugabe awarded them a presidential decree in 1990 and reasserted in 2001.
The decree was awarded as a reaffirmation of Zimbabwe’s commitment to responsible wildlife management and was intended to protect these elephants against hunting and culling.
The petition is addressed to Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Cde Douglas Mombeshora and Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Cde Walter Mzembi.
They accuse one Elisabeth Freeman also known as Elizabeth Pasalk of barring many of the eco-tourism operators and the Presidential Elephant Conservation Project in the area.
“We, the undersigned, contend that the herd of elephants known as the Presidential Elephants by Decree of the President the Hon Robert Mugabe in 1990 and reiterated in 2011 are an important part of Zimbabwe’s international reputation as a premiere wildlife tourism destination.
“We contend that the safety of the Presidential Elephants is a very important issue to Zimbabwe. The Kanondo area’s existing photographic safari operators and the Presidential Herd Conservation Project have protected the elephants by their presence and active conservation activities.
“Since the occupation by Elizabeth Freeman (aka Elizabeth Pasalk) and her cohorts the land, they have named “Gwando Conservancy” has been advertised as a safari destination. The land has been closed to many of the eco-tourism operators and the Presidential Elephant Conservation Project, this denial of access puts the Presidential Elephants and their protected conservation status at risk,” reads part of the petition.
Min Mzembi said he is aware of the petition but has not responded to it because the issue is custodial.
“I am aware of the petition and neither have I responded to it. The duty of my ministry is to market the product and the issue being raised by the petition is political. I think it has to be answered at political level.
“The issue must go before the Politburo. It is a custodial issue and the ministries directly involved are the Ministry of Lands and that of Environment,” he said.
Min Mombeshora said he is not aware of the petition arguing that he does not even go onto the internet.
“I have not heard anything about what you are asking. Handiende paInternet. They (conservationists) should come in person and tell us or write to me or the permanent secretary,” he said.
The conservationists said they notified the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, about the possible danger facing the Presidential Herd but he has not done anything about it.
“Our community has contacted the Hon Minister for Environment Saviour Kusukwere with urgency in March and April 2014 in regards to this matter and no response or action has been forthcoming.”
Min Kasukuwere confirmed being approached regarding the special herd of elephants but said his office could not do anything because it does not deal with land issues.
“It is true they approached my office but I do not deal with land allocation. The rightful office to talk to is the Ministry of Lands,” the minister said.
On Monday the Zanu PF Politburo made a decision to boot out all those that had been allocated land in the Save Valley Conservative, including party big wigs.
The conservationists pleaded with Cde Mzembi and Cde Mombeshora to take up the issue with the powers that be and ensue that a similar directive is issued to force people out of Kanondo conservation area.