ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has lost more than US$5 million in revenue due to poaching and other indirect operations.
The director of conservation, Mr Vitalis Chadenga, said the authority has lost US$5 million through poaching.
"Poaching has become a major problem and we lost quite a number of our black rhinos and measures have been put in place to counter the problem," he said.
Areas hardest hit by rhino poachers are Lake Chivero, the Midlands, Hwange and the south-eastern Lowveld, where there are many unlicensed guns smuggled through the country’s porous border with Mozambique.
The parks authority is currently exploring ways of curbing the poaching of rhinos by reviving intensive patrol zones that were successfully employed in the past to combat poaching of endangered species like rhinos.
Mr Chadenga also revealed that efforts are underway to recruit and train more rangers to beef up staff to tackle the new challenges posed by poachers.
The parks authority is also working with other stakeholders such as the police and private conservancies to come up with new strategies to combat poaching, he said.
Environmental and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema acknowledged that there has been a steady decline in poaching after the nation embarked on an intensive awareness campaign in communities surrounded by parks.
"We are seeing a decline in cases of rhino poaching after we held massive campaigns in these communities educating them about the value of the animals and their importance to the economy."
After our successive operations with the police and army we are making a lot of difference in these parks and our security forces on the ground have been assisting us to flush out poachers," said Minister Nhema
The killing of at least 70 rhinos in the past 12 months by well-co-ordinated poaching syndicates around the world has placed the country on the agenda of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meetings scheduled for next year.
Since January this year, at least 10 poachers have been shot dead and several arrested trying to kill and de-horn rhinos around the country.
Minister Nhema added that the availability of resources has also enhanced the decline in cases of poaching around the targeted areas.
"We now have sufficient equipment and resources to carry out our operations in rhino-infested areas as this is also assisting us in nabbing the poachers."
Our rhinos now have collar bands through which we can easily track them in a given radius, therefore monitoring of the animals has become easier," he said.
Government has been making concerted efforts to de-horn rhinos so as to reduce their value to poachers, but the process must be repeated because the horns sprout after a given period.
Recently the ministry has been relocating rhinos to safe areas near towns so as to derail attempts of poaching. The surge in poaching in recent years is partly attributed to the rising demand for rhino horns by the Chinese black market.
Mr Nhema added that the security forces and the community awareness campaigns in the country’s rhino-infested areas would continue until rhino killing has gone down.
Article from The Sunday Mail - Kudakwashe Mutandi