Editorial Comment: Military presence will deter poachers Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri

Poaching is a continuous and perennial problem in Zimbabwe and needs to be dealt with effectively and decisively.

So we welcome the deployment of troops and the use of helicopters of the Air Force of Zimbabwe in the battle.

The worst and most effective poachers operate in armed gangs and the Zimbabwe National Army does have the expertise, experience and skills in hunting down and dealing with gangs of armed men.

We assume that calling in the army and the airforce to back the civil power, in this case the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the experience Zimbabwe has built up over the years will be used in joint operations.

Past experience suggests that many armed poachers would rather chance a gunfight than surrender and if they want one then the army can deal with that. If a call to surrender is met with a fusillade then again the army are trained to shoot back.

We would also expect to see a decrease in poaching with extra armed manpower on patrol. This should deter poachers from even trying to operate.

So the publicity surrounding the deployment on joint operations is desirable. And those who are not deterred have only themselves to blame if they are arrested or shot in a gunfight.

We also welcome the introduction of better technology in the battle against poachers.

Drones are a very cost-effective way of patrolling large areas and as has been noted by Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, once a gang has been found by drones then troops and Parks staff can be deployed by air to surround the gang.

Past problems of keeping expensive helicopters on continuous patrol are eliminated, but they need to be available for specific operations.

Using expertise from the University of Zimbabwe in developing and implementing wildlife tracking systems is also a positive move. For several reasons, good and bad, Zimbabwe has never made the best use of the research capacity of its universities. In this case the goals of pure research, learning more about the movements and concentrations of wildlife and the applications of that research, knowing where vulnerable wildlife can be found so it can be better protected, seem a perfect fit.

But the most positive aspect of the new plans is the seriousness of the anti-poaching operation. National Parks are no longer expected to handle the problem alone. They will have the backing they so desperately need to win the war against poaching.

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