Zimbabwe is a country full of natural wonders that have drawn people from all over the world. Some of these wonders include the Victoria Falls and the wildlife which offer visitors to the numerous game reserves an unparalleled safari experience.
Over the years, tourism has slumped a bit due to various challenges that the country has faced but, recent statistics have shown a slight rise in visitor numbers. Some of the wildlife that attracts tourists also attracts attention of a different and more sinister kind. Populations in certain parts of the world have an insatiable appetite for certain animal parts such as elephant tusks and rhino horns. The existence of a thriving illegal market has seen an increase in poaching activities not only in Zimbabwe but across Sub-Saharan Africa as well.
A recent example of such activities was the senseless killing of approximately 90 elephants where poachers poisoned watering holes with cyanide. Even though the court sentenced the three poachers to at least 15 years in prison, and the main instigator was ordered to pay US$600,000 (440,000 euro) to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Authority for killing the animals, while one of the other poachers must pay $200,000 by the end of the year, nothing will be able to fix what they did.
|Fast facts: Poaching|
|At the beginning of the 20th century there were a few million African elephants
||Today, there are about 450,000-700,000 African elephants|
|Number of Rhino that were poached in 2012 in Southern Africa||668, and at the beginning of 2013 they were being poached at a rate of 2 per day|
|The amount of elephant ivory recovered in 2011 in the world||13 large-scale seizures of ivory and over 23 tons of ivory confiscated. This is equivalent to at least 2,500 elephants.|
|Population of Rhino in Africa||Decreased from 830 to 740 in the last year|
This goes to show that poachers will do anything to get their hands on something that only makes up a small part of the entire animal, some of which are endangered. Killing the animals is the easiest and most convenient way for poachers to get what they want. At the rate that they are going, it could soon reach a point where we are talking about how there used to be a magnificent animal called an elephant that used to… (the rest of the story is up to you).
However, all is not lost because poaching is being seen as becoming more and more of a concern with various governments and other groups now waging an aggressive war against poachers. Some of the anti-poaching frontline personnel go through quasi military training to prepare them for their task of protecting wildlife. In some regions it goes to the extent of the military being roped in to tackle poaching. You may ask why the need for such manpower? It has been alleged that some of the groups labelled as terrorist fund some of their activities via poaching. That said, taking the life of a person trying to stop them would not be of consequence.
Conservation also plays a big role in ensuring the continued survival of the various threatened species. The world’s human population is growing and as it does, human demands sometimes take over habitats that have been home to these animals. There are people out there who have dedicated their lives to preserving biodiversity and ecosystems to ensure harmony between animals and people who may live in the vicinity of certain habitats.
One such person is Clive Stockil, a pioneer in conservation who’s career spans over four decades. One of his achievements includes setting up the country’s largest private game reserve which is located in Zimbabwe’s Save Valley. The reserve is home to 143 rhinos, a number reached from an initial population of 20 rhinos when he started in the early nineties.
Clive’s efforts in conservation were recently recgonised when he was awarded the lifetime Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa. His efforts (and those of other like minded people) are very commendable because not only do they keep threatened species alive, they also give people a livelihood.
Without people stopping poachers and people managing conservation, there would be little or no wildlife, the wilderness that plays home to wildlife would cease to exist. Tourism is a key avenue through which conservationists like Clive raise funds to enable them to carry out the work that they do.
Not all of us can go out there to fight poachers or become conservation champions but we can make a contribution to these efforts by doing something as simple as visiting one the country’s eco-tourism reserves.
Do you care enough to play a part in ensuring that Zimbabwe’s threatened animals and environments are still around for decades to come?
By: 5VictoriaFalls24 / www.livingzimbabwe.com
Date: 26 September 2013