Walter Mswazie and Runesu Gwidi
Zimbabwe’s elephant population has ballooned to 84 000, exceeding the carrying capacity of 50 000 jumbos, which is exerting pressure on the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Speaking during the launch of the Command Water Harvesting project in Masvingo recently, Zimparks director-general Mr Filton Mangwanya said the problem has been worsened by the CITES ban on the sale of elephants.
“Since we are unable to sell our elephants due to CITES restriction, the elephants’ population has ballooned to 84 000 and yet we have a carrying capacity of only 50 000,” he said. He said the authority was failing to contain poaching activities, partly due to staff shortages. This has seen one game ranger being responsible for manning 1 000 square kilometres of area when the ideal situation should be one ranger per 20 square kilometres. Mr Mangwanya decried rampant poaching activities in Zimbabwe that saw a good number of the elephants being killed through shooting or poisoning.
“A total of 893 jumbos were killed by poachers during the period between 2013 and 2016. Out of this number, 249 elephants were killed through poisoning using cyanide and shooting. We suspect that these poisonous chemicals come from the mining and agriculture sectors or other chemical industries,” said Mr Mangwanya. Mr Mangwanya said Zimparks had potential to contribute to the country’s economic development, but this was being affected by a lack of resources.
“Our own lodges at national parks are not in good shape, while perimeter fences have been destroyed by unscrupulous villagers, resulting in human-animal conflict,” he said. Zimparks, he said, felt that if they were allowed to sell some of the elephants, they could get resources to refurbish infrastructure at national parks and game reserves.