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of Chiredzi River Conservancy continues
March 27, 2012
Despite numerous disturbing
reports and photo's the destruction of the Chiredzi River
Conservancy goes on unabated. Government had begun, earlier this
year, to take legal action on the unlawful settlement of conservancy
areas within Zimbabwe. However, National Parks themselves seem to
be countering this positive intervention.
On the 13th of February,
a portfolio committee meeting was held where oral evidence from
the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement was given on people
being resettled within conservancies. Following this, on the 14th
of February, there was a meeting held by the Secretary for Lands
and Rural Resettlement discussing current land policies. Conservancies
such as the Ciredzi River Conservancy (CRC) have been decimated
by illegal invasions and are desperate for change.
encouraging action, three more elephants were allegedly shot and
killed by National Parks rangers within the CRC boundary. The ivory
was removed from the two young females and young male and the meat
was shared amongst the settlers. According to Johnny Rodrigues,
Chairman of the Zimbabwe
Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), Vitalis Chadenga, Director-General
of National Parks, is said to have 40 odd tons of ivory he hopes
to sell to raise money to protect the elephant.
It is now alleged that
the settlers are putting together a petition to present to parliament
requesting that all elephants be shot because they are destroying
their crops. This in itself is totally unfounded, as crops cannot
be grown successfully in this very arid area.
The settlers began invading
Oscro Ranch, one of the view remaining areas in the conservancy
Theresa Warth, a land
owner within CRC is devastated by the continued slaughter and deforestation
of the area, "I believe that NP is meant to be an organization
that is here to look after and protect wildlife, not just come and
shoot without investigations and assessing the damage reported."
The concept of the Chiredzi
River Conservancy came about when a group of progressive farmers
decided to stop extensive cattle farming and return to wildlife
due to the low rainfall in the region. The Conservancy was started
in 1987 with farmers making the decision to take down the fencing
between individual farms to create a 110 000 hectare area of pristine
wildlife and land.
This haven has slowly
been destroyed, when the Zimbabwe land invasions began in February
2000, A1 settlers were given land within the conservancy. Conservancy
property owners were told the situation was temporary and that the
settlers would be moved to a more suitable area however this never
Rodrigues feels that
the invasion and more specifically the associated poaching "is
a tactic used by certain politicians to try and intimidate the owners
to leave the land." Rodrigues says that although invasions
may originally have been politically motivated the conservancy wants
to steer clear of politics and focus more on stopping the criminal
destruction of the conservancy's environment.
The Chiredzi area, situated
in region 5, receives less than 450mm annual rainfall. "This
land isn't made for agriculture, the rainfalls aren't
good enough," says Warth. Because of the extremities of the
climate, the settlers have been unable to grow crops successfully
and have resorted to other resources within the conservancy. "There
was free meat, free fish, free wood and free grass. But instead
of looking after what they were given, they have destroyed it,"
Gary is devastated by the destruction. "Its environmental
suicide to encroach into the streambed, because of low rainfall,
to grow vegetable gardens and hope you're going to reap crops
in region five where the rain is so sporadic."
the 'poaching' of these vulnerable resources, they are
not being fully utilised. "Three quarters of the game snared
rots in the snares and is never utilised," says Warth. Also,
the trees which are cut down to make room for crop fields are burnt
on the spot and aren't sold or stocked away for later.
According to the Zimbabwe
Conservation Task Force statistics 90% of the game in private game
farms has been lost to poaching.
At the end of 2011 the
Conservancy had 72 wild elephant; this number has severely dropped,
with a spate of seven recent killings. Rodrigues feels the ivory
poaching is controlled mainly by the Asian market, who he says "have
been linked to a lot of (wildlife) atrocities in the country."
The Standard recently published an article about four Chinese nationals
who were arrested for killing 40 tortoises listed as an endangered
Gary Warth clarifies
the severity of the situation saying: "What we're seeing
now has gone past political and we're now looking at the criminal
destruction of the environment. Regardless of who owns the land,
black or white, you can't afford to do what's happening
at the moment."
Rodrigues has written
a letter of complaint to Vitalis Chadenga, Minister Francis Nhema
and to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai about the situation. The
issue has been brought up in parliament and there is going to be
a commission of inquiry by a task team in to what has been happening.
Rodrigues worries about
the heritage of future generations. "I hope the truth will
be brought out into the open so that we can save the remaining animals."
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