Poaching activities upsurge during COVID-19 lockdown

The collar shaped snares are neatly placed around and within the Hwange National Park, the snares are strategically located to trap wild animals which pass through the bushy areas to the nearest watering hole. Kudus and duikers are the main target of the traps although some of the animals are caught in crossfire as they are trapped instead. The unscrupulous snare setters (Poachers) do not care about the size of the beasts which will fall in the trap, they are only concerned about the game meat they will obtain from the killings. The poachers know the consequences of their ghastly behavior to the animals as well as to the environment but they turn a blind eye to that.

The poachers set veld fires to scare the animals so that they run wildly towards the already set traps. In fear, buffaloes, kudus and other endangered animals such as the painted dogs are caught in the cross fire and they die a painful death in the hands of the of the poachers.

The number of animals being snared for food by local people living in the boundary of the park has increased dramatically during the country’s COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. Large animals such as elephants, buffaloes and zebra are strong and usually break wires snares from their fixing, resulting in the animals suffering from terrible wounds as the wires cut in their necks or legs.

Milton Mudenda (25) a villager from Chezhou says his brother was recently arrested facing poaching charges, he    says the poachers in this area are syndicates who are aware that it is against the law to illegally kill animals even though efforts are being made to curb activities associated with poaching.

‘’My brother is behind bars now, although he knew that poaching is against the law he continued with his poaching spree secretly for game meat for sell’’ says Mudenda.

The sudden rise of poaching activities is fuelled by the economic negative impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anti-Poaching Unit posing after removing snares – Image courtesy of Painted Dog Conservation

Wilton Nsimango, the Education and Community Development Manager for Painted Dog Conservation(PDC) , an organization which deals with conserving and protecting the endangered painted dog confirmed that there has been a notable upsurge  of poaching activities during the COVID –19 lockdown.

“Poaching activities increased extremely which is our concern, during the period ending June 2020 we recovered and confisticated 1886 snares compared to a 406 snares we confisticated during the same period last year”.

“There were so many  people who were employed in the safaris  but are no longer employed due to the shut downs, some were bread winners but  are no longer earning  living, therefore  most of these people illegally kill and  sell the wild animals” says Nsimango.

Nsimango revealed that in order to meet the increased poaching activities, PDC had to game up through increasing the anti poaching unit.

“The increases of poaching made us turn the anti poaching unit into an essential service, we increased the number of   anti poaching team by 60 percent and they fully patrolled in communities and the game reserve during the lockdown period to curb poaching activities in the Hwange District.

Although PDC is working closely with Zimbabwe National park in fighting poaching during this global pandemic, Chief Dingani Nelukoba from Lupote in Hwange district raised his concern over the increase of poaching in Hwange.

“Of course poaching has been there for  long time in Hwange ,but the increase of their activities affects the communities  we live in, the snares put up by the poachers do not only trap wild animals, even our own domestic animals such as cows and goats are caught in the cross fire’’ says Chief Nelukoba.

A number of villagers living in the peripheries of Hwange National park have lost their domestic animals to poachers and the poachers come from within the same villages.

Meanwhile Lupote Ward 16 councilor Cosmas Mwakiposa appealed to the community of Dete and Hwange as a whole to desist from poaching activities despite the economic situation.

“Poaching is a threat to the wildlife, domestic animals as well as the environment, as community   members we need to safe guard our wildlife and environment” he says.

He went on applauded the efforts made by organizations such as PDC in deploying foot soldiers of anti poaching Unit in the district.

Poaching in Hwange district continues to impact nearby communities despite the spirited and coordinated efforts by government and its partners to curb the crime.  A visit to the region has revealed that poaching activities continue to harm surrounding communities giving government officials and their partners a hard time in beating the criminals in their game.

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