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Monday, October 28, 2013

Hwange Elephant situation

In view of what’s recently been reported in the press and other media services, I would like to report to all our members what has been happening in Hwange National Park with regards to the horrific Elephant deaths that have been reported and the part WEZ has been playing to assist Parks.

As we all aware numerous elephants have been reported poached in the South West Area of the park which boarders onto the Tsholotsho Communal Area, as a result of poisoning water holes and lacing of salt with cyanide.

While this initially appeared to be confined to the Southern area of the Park, it was later discovered that the Eastern Border Area, that bordering the Forestry Areas had also been affected with reports of 5 carcasses being found in the Ngamo Forest Area, suspected of having been poisoned.

I was contacted about this by Sharon Pincott (Presidential Elephants) who was very concerned that while these initial reports were confined to the Ngamo Area, the area north of Ngamo and the Sikumi Forest Area, could also have possibly been infiltrated, putting the Presidential Herd at risk and she asked if there was any chance WEZ could assist in an aerial survey to assess the situation.

I contacted Pat Cox who as we all know has been assisting us for many years with the aerial survey prior to our Annual Game Count, who didn’t hesitate as always to offer his plane and services to have a look at the situation.

An initial delay owing to a problem on the aircraft delayed us slightly, and the survey after consultation with Parks on what was required started on Thursday last week.

The first flight which extended as far South as Lupane covered the whole Ngamo Forestry Area and we found 3 carcasses in addition to the initial 5 that had been reported.  The second flight covered the entire Sikumi Forestry Area and apart from an already known poaching incident near Ganda Lodge not involving poison no other carcasses were seen.

At the initial briefing with parks we had been asked to, after completing the Forestry Area to also check an area starting from a point referred to as Mabangee which neither Pat or myself had heard of this area situated on the Eastern Boundary of the Park north of Dete, and we were to then fly in a westerly direction as far down as Guvalala and Nehimba.

At a point midway between Boss Longone pan and Guvalala and some 2.7kms north off the main tar road to Sinamattella a further 8 carcasses were discovered which all had had the ivory removed.

These carcasses were fresh and were being eaten by Vultures, and it was later confirmed there were in fact 11 carcasses.

At the time of the sighting it could not be determined if these elephant had been shot or poisoned as there was no water in the area, it was later confirmed that they were poisoned presumably using salt.

Returning to Main camp, Parks were shown photo’s given the coordinates, and all credit must be given to them for their prompt reaction and within an hour vehicles and men were being deployed to the spot, it was very encouraging to see such activity.

The follow up was successful and arrests have been made with ivory having also been recovered, unfortunately we have lost another 11 elephant.

What concerned us unlike the other carcasses found all on the boarder and peripheral areas of the Park these carcasses were as near to the centre of the Park as one can get, a very worrying situation.

In conclusion it was very encouraging to see how serious Parks and the new Minister of Environment, Saviour Kasukuwere were taking this whole issue.  With the Minister insisting that after each flight, he was to be informed of exactly we had done and seen.

On returning to Byo we have again been contacted by Parks and asked if a further survey be done of the areas not covered, organising of this is presently taking place and you will be kept informed of any further details.

Colin Gillies
WEZ Member Matabeleland Branch

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