A tragic accident in which two innocent people were shot dead, took place on Sunday 13th March in Mana Pools National Park, a Park  that is on the banks of the Zambezi, on the Northern border of Zimbabwe.
The Father and Son who were visiting Mana Pools over the weekend were shot dead by Zimbabwe National Parks Rangers in a case of mistaken identity. The information we have to hand is that the Father and son, who are believed to be Italian Nationals but residents of Zimbabwe were assisting the local National Parks Authority in Mana Pools with some anti-poaching deployments. Their vehicle had broken down and they had gotten out of the vehicle to attend to the problem when a group of rangers following the tracks of suspected poachers nearby, heard the two talking and opened fire on them thinking they were the poachers that they were tracking.

Zimbabwe National Parks have been battling with an upsurge in commercial poaching in its Parks and especially those parks on its borders. The authority has in recent times taken stringent measures to reduce the poaching through serious combat training and techniques being used in the field as well as elevated fines for those poachers that are caught. Many of the commercial poachers coming across borders are heavily armed and they are not afraid to engage in shoot outs with the local scouts on patrol. These poachers are targeting the large numbers of elephant that are found in the country’s parks and are well funded by international poaching traders, international syndicates and consortiums.

VF24 – Editor 5

The following is a full report received from the Zambezi Society on this incident –

FACTUAL REPORT ON THE TRAGIC DEATHS OF TWO WILDLIFE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS IN MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK
Statement from The Zambezi Society
14th March 2016

Richard Maasdorp and Gary Layard of The Zambezi Society today visited the scene of the tragic incident which took place in Mana Pools National Park on Sunday 13thMarch and resulted in the deaths of Claudio Chiarelli and his son Max Chiarelli.

The two deceased died instantly when caught in the mistaken fire of a National Parks patrol of three rangers at about 3.30p.m. yesterday afternoon – Sunday 13th March.

Claudio and Max, together with Francesco Marconati were providing voluntary support to deploy two National Parks anti-poaching patrols consisting of 6 rangers with the intention of uplifting the three rangers who were in the field following fresh spoor of poachers.

The group had parked their vehicle on the side of the road in the middle section of the Mana Pools National Park to await the arrival of the three Park rangers who had been tracking poachers in dense bush since 9.00a.m. that morning.

The intention was to meet at the road and hand over three fresh rangers to continue the follow-up.

Claudio and Max Chiarelli with Francesco Marconati took the opportunity to open the bonnet of their vehicle to inspect the engine. Meanwhile, the 6 Park rangers they were transporting had dismounted from the vehicle and arranged themselves next to it while waiting for their three colleagues to arrive.

Unbeknown to them, the vehicle had been parked within just 15 metres of where the poachers’ tracks had crossed the road.

Meanwhile, the anti-poaching patrol in hot pursuit, heard voices, crouched down, and slowly moved forward through the thick undergrowth.

Through a gap in the bushes, they saw part of a blue shirt. They assumed this was a poacher and let off a burst of gunfire.

Tragically, both Claudio and Max were killed instantly.

As the anti-poaching patrol rangers were crouched, they were unable to see the road at all.

Fortunately, the 6 rangers awaiting deployment did not return fire.

Richard Maasdorp, Strategic Director of The Zambezi Society stated: “Today (Monday 14th March 2016), we witnessed a thorough on-site investigation by the Zimbabwe Police CID and members of the National Parks Investigations Branch and Senior Management.

The Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and other state organs now, more than ever, need support and resources to contain their battle against wildlife poaching.

We, the Zambezi Society, extend our very deepest sympathy to Mrs Chiarelli and her daughter and the family on this terrible tragedy. We posthumously thank Claudio and Max Chiarelli, as a father and son combination, for the years of dedication that they have shown in support of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe. This tragedy is deeply regretted.”

E-mail us at zambezi@iwayafrica.co.zw
Note: Richard Maasdorp is currently out of mobile phone range in Mana Pools, but will be available from Tuesday 15th March on +263 772 419897