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Tuesday, September 6, 2011


30th August 2011


During the drought of 91/92, a number of juvenile elephants were captured in Gonarezhou National Park and moved to the Chiredzi River Conservancy in order to save them from starvation. There are now approximately 70 of these elephants which have been under constant pressure from land invaders over the past 11 years but have learnt to co-exist with them.

However, there are now new land invasions taking place in Chiredzi River Conservancy and for the past week, there has been a new influx of people cutting down trees, poaching and destroying the already damaged environment. They are moving into areas that have been spared from degradation until recently. The wildlife has already been suffering in these areas due to poaching, but at least they had somewhere they could stay and feed.

The invaders are people who have already taken or been given land elsewhere in the Conservancy. The Conservancy is situated in an area classified as Region 5, which means it is arid and not suitable for agriculture. The invaders have destroyed the areas they were given in the first place, by burning and over grazing and they are now turning their attention to the areas occupied by the wildlife. Hundreds of cattle are grazing there illegally and there is no management or guidance from the authorities.

After 11 years of settlement and attempted farming, the settlers are still relying on food aid because this area is too hot and the rainfall too low to enable crops to grow. Although there is funding available to help the settlers move to areas more suitable for farming, the destruction continues and the authorities turn a blind eye to it. In an effort to protect the elephants in the area, Mr Nhema, Minister of Environment and Tourism was approached for assistance but when asked if the elephants could be relocated to a safer area, he was adamant that they must stay in the Chiredzi River Conservancy. He also stated that the settlers were there illegally which is all very well but no attempt is being made to relocate the settlers.

The territory which had been set aside for the elephants has now been invaded and they have nowhere else to go. In order to reach water holes and dams, they have to pass through settled areas where they are harassed and chased by the invaders. The animals are extremely stressed and some young calves are missing. One elephant has a new snare embedded in its flesh and 2 months ago, 2 young elephants in the area were decapitated - one being a lactating cow.

The Zimbabwean wildlife has already taken such a beating since the onset of the Land Reform Programme and it is imperative that we try and preserve the remaining animals. The destruction taking place in the Chiredzi River Conservancy is so pointless and unnecessary. If the settlers were able to grow crops in the area to avert hunger, one could understand but this is not the case. No matter how much vegetation they destroy or how many animals they kill, they are never going to be able to grow crops in an area which is too hot and dry to support this but still they carry on trying. As we have seen over the past 11 years, once they have destroyed everything, they will then move on and destroy another area - to what purpose?

We appeal to the authorities to please move the settlers to a more arable area where their crops will flourish. Then the settlers will be happy and the elephants can continue to live in the territory they have always enjoyed.

Johnny Rodrigues

Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

Landline: 263 4 336710

Mobile: 263 712 603 213





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