20th January 2010
We would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010!
On the 21st of December, we went to Kariba and stayed at Nzou Lodges, close to the NAU Charara site where the infamous party takes place. We never take a radio or a TV there because it seems almost sacrilegious to disturb the peacefulness and natural silence of the bush with music. Until the 29th of December, there were very few people there and it was wonderful to sit quietly listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. We were very lucky because there was a herd of 11 bull elephants in the vicinity for the duration of our stay and every night, we were treated to a visit from one or two of these majestic beasts, walking right past our cottage.
Then on the 30th of December, the peacefulness was abruptly shattered. The disco was set up in Charara and the party-goers starting arriving. Cars, motor bikes and quad bikes were screaming up and down the dirt roads and the silence was replaced with the continuous thump-thumping of music emmanating from the disco, the cottages and the cars. Pick-ups loaded to the hilt with teenagers, waving drinks in the air, shouting and cheering, drove recklessly past the elephants and the hippos.
On New Year's Eve, we arranged for a young ZCTF member to attend the party. He reported that the ages of the party-goers ranged from about 13 to 18 and children who were obviously much younger than 18 were buying alcohol from the bar. He could smell the unmistakable aroma of marujana and in the early hours of the 1st of January, many of these young people were sprawled all over the ground in a semi-comatose state. He saw one young couple copulating in the dirt behind a car, in full view of people walking by. At midnight, fireworks were set off, in blatant disregard of the signs at the entrance of Charara "Strictly no fireworks." We were deeply saddened by this total lack of respect for the wildlife.
According to our member, a police detail was present but they did practically nothing. They sprang into action once when a fight broke out but otherwise remained inconspicuously in the background. They were not in the least concerned about the ages of the children buying alcohol or about the setting off of fireworks.
We noticed a change in the behaviour of the 11 elephants. They seemed to be aggravated and confused, flapping their ears and trumpeting. We watched anxiously from a distance as one bull mock-charged a car full of youngsters, knowing that if he had carried out the charge, somebody could have been hurt or killed and then the elephant would have been classified as a problem animal and shot.
We have tried to put a stop to this party or at least to have it moved to a location closer to Kariba town, away from the main wildlife preserve and we will carry on trying. The problem is, the party is a money spinner for the organizers, the National Anglers' Union who obviously feel that making money takes priority over everything else. It may surprise them to know that some things are more important than money.
BUFFALO SHOT BY NATIONAL PARKS
We have received a report from a disgusted South Africa tourist who spent 3 weeks in Charara just before Christmas. He was fishing in Charara watching 2 buffalo grazing contentedly when suddenly, a contingent of National Parks staff members appeared in a landrover and shot them, in full view of the tourist.
He reported the matter to the Charara National Parks officials who nervously told him that they had instructions from officials in Harare "to get meat to the fat cats there."
On his way back to Harare, he stopped behind a National Parks landrover at a road block. The landrover was full of fresh meat, some of which was given to the police manning the road block.
According to Charara residents, last year there were 96 buffalo in the Charara area and at the last count 2 weeks ago, there are only 65 left.
A MOTOR BIKE FOR STEVE KOK
We are trying to raise funds to buy a 250cc off-road motor bike for Steve Kok to help with his anti poaching patrols in Charara. If anyone is selling a bike, please contact us.
Over the past 10 years, we have been circulating reports about the decimation of the wildlife in Zimbabwe and in so doing, we have been accused of sensationalism, alarmism, exaggeration, being an "enemy of the state" and even downright lying. We have stated several times in the past that once most of the animals on the private game ranches had been slaughtered, the poachers and illegal hunters would turn to the "protected" National Parks for their ill-gotten gains.
The increasing number of reports we are receiving with regard to illegal hunting and poaching within the National Parks is cause for grave concern. Several incidences have been reported to the Director General of National Parks who, to date, has failed to respond.
The problem with illegal hunting within a National Park is that it cannot take place without the assistance of National Parks officials and there are many cases where they are involved, either for personal gain or because they are following orders from more senior officials or politicians. We have a list of people, some very high profile, whose names regularly appear in reports received. If anyone would like to see the names, please contact us.
ROBINS CAMP - HWANGE NATIONAL PARK
In July 2009, 5 Romanian hunters, a professional hunter and a National Parks official were arrested for illegally hunting elephant in Robins Camp. The case was never finalized. The culprits were released and their equipment returned, it is believed upon instructions from the Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources.
In October 2009, a South African professional hunter admitted that his French client had bow hunted an elephant in the Robins area and that he had paid USD5 000 , which went into the pocket of the head warden to enable his client to hunt within the National Park.
SIKUMI FOREST - HWANGE
In August 2009, an American hunter illegally shot an elephant with a bow and arrow in Sikumi Forest, using watermelons as bait to lure the elephant out of Hwange National Park. The hunt was conducted by a South African professional hunter in collaboration with a Zimbabwean professional hunter and the American was apparently unaware that the hunt was illegal. The hunting party was guilty of hunting without permission in Sikumi Forest, bow hunting without the necessary permit and using bait to attract the elephant.
The South African professional hunter paid USD2 000 to the Zimbabwean professional hunter and USD2 000 to the concession holder to facilitate the hunt and the American client was assured that everything was legal and above board.
These reports are just a small percentage of the reports we have received and all names are available upon request.
War veterans near Humani Estates in Chiredzi have resorted to poisoning rhinos since they have failed to make a success out of the farm lands they were allocated in 2000. A spokesman said that the war vets are placing poisoned cabbages at animal drinking points so that the animals will eat them when they come to drink. He said that most of them are working as agents for South African based rhino horn dealers who have flooded the area with firearms. He claimed that they are even poisoning some small dams in the area in the hope that the rhinos will drink from them.
Our heartfelt appreciation to three fourteen year old girls, Sophie Kelly, Natascha and Amy who raised 50 pounds for us whilst Carol singing in the UK. It means so much to us when such young people make an effort to preserve our wildlife.
Thank you also to the following people who have assisted with donations:
John and Helen Buckle
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline: 263 4 336710
Landline/Fax: 263 4 339065
Mobile: 263 11 603 213