A network for all who care about the conservation of our world and who want to see it achieved with justice, compassion, dignity and honesty.

Zimbabwe: Illegal Settlers Blamed for Poaching At Conservancies

"When the powers that be speak in tongues it is difficult for us to implement."

The high price paid by both people and the environment for the political upheavals in Zimbabwe

Illegal settlers on conservancies and plantations have contributed to an increase in poaching and degradation of the environment, officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Forestry Commission said yesterday.

The officials said this in oral evidence to the House of Assembly Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, chaired by Tsholotsho South legislator Mr Maxwell Dube (MDC).

Parks director-general Mr Vitalis Chadenga said several conservancies had deteriorated due to the illegal settlers' activities.

"A number of conservancies are no longer existing in their original form.”

"Government directives to spare these conservancies have partially been implemented but there has been rampant poaching," he said.

Mr Chadenga said between January 2010 and March this year, 16 poachers had been killed in stand-offs with authorities, while 2 572 people had been arrested.

He said 52 rhinos had been killed on both Parks Authority and private conservancies.

Mr Chadenga said there appeared to be insufficient political will to remove the illegal settlers.

"There is not a critical mass of political will and unanimity in the voice delivered to these people.

"When the powers that be speak in tongues it is difficult for us to implement."

He said some of the people legally settled on conservancies had no interest in wildlife conservation and were converting the land to cropping.

Forestry Commission general manager Mr Darlington Duwa also raised concern over conversion of forestry and plantations into crop land.

He too said illegal settlers were causing untold damage through uncontrolled fires.

He said there was 120,000 hectares of commercial plantations with exotic trees in Manicaland and these were under threat.

"The challenge is that there are some people who have settled themselves on these plantations.

"We had a meeting on Saturday (with land committees in Manicaland) and we are appealing to you as legislators that these people are settled elsewhere."

Mr Duwa said because of the long gestation periods for tree plantations (between 10 and 25 years), many people were opting for cropping as it offered quicker returns.

He said 35,000 families had settled themselves on indigenous forests in Matabeleland North and South, and Midlands provinces and were threatening the ecological balance.

The provinces have 800,000ha of indigenous forests.

"At least 35,000 people have settled themselves on 26,000 hactares of indigenous plantations and there is a population of 117,000 cattle, 8,400 goats and 12,000 donkeys in the demarcated forests.

"This leads to degradation on an ecosystem that is already fragile," he said.

Mr Duwa said the forests were meant to stop the spread of the Kalahari Desert into Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Mr Chadenga said four Zimbabwean game rangers who were arrested in Botswana last month will appear in court today.

He said they had engaged lawyers in Botswana to represent them.

The four were arrested after straying into Botswana while following spoor of suspected poachers.

From The Herald Published by the government of Zimbabwe.  

Reprinted in  4th April, 2011

JC Note: No mention here of the forces that have propelled so many families from their homes and into the parks and forests of Zimbabwe.

blog comments powered by Disqus