Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
At least 22 poachers have been killed this year in combat action with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers, while 900 others were arrested, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has said.
Addressing a Press conference yesterday, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said of the 22, 16 were locals while the others were foreigners.
“At least 876 locals involved in poaching have been arrested this year and 44 foreigners were also apprehended.
“We are moving to embrace the use of technology like drones and aircraft to combat poaching,” she said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said despite the high number of arrests made, the courts were not giving deterrent sentences with the amount of bail granted to suspects being too little.
She said five game rangers were arrested in Hwange for allegedly poisoning 11 elephants by lacing food with cyanide last week.
Six elephants were found dead with their tusks removed in Hwange National Park and on September 26 this year and rangers also came across five more elephant carcasses less than a week later.
The elephants still had their tusks, suggesting that the alleged poachers were disrupted. In another incident, authorities in Kariba also found three elephants suspected to have died of cyanide poisoning.
However, in this case, authorities suspect that it was not wilful poisoning as the elephants are suspected to have taken something from a dumpsite.
She said the suspected poachers arrested were still assisting police with investigations adding that their homes had been searched for evidence.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said officers from the Environmental Management Agency had been deployed to the site to neutralise the cyanide and carry out further investigations.
“We have managed as much as possible to protect our elephants. We still maintain a population of about 80 000 elephants with Hwange National Park having the largest population.
“These animals cause damage not only to the crops of the surrounding communities but we are also losing lives. There is always a conflict between communities and animals,” she said.