Wildlife conservationists in Zimbabwe are struggling to protect endangered rhinos – and now the uphill battle includes war veterans who have gotten into the rhino poaching business.
In yet another setback to Zimbabwe’s wildlife conservation efforts, war veterans settled near the Humani Estates in the Chiredzi District are allegedly poisoning rhinos living on a nearby game reserve in order to sell the horns to South African rhino horn dealers.
Nelson Maponga, Humani Estate community spokesperson said via ZimEye that war veterans settled in the area have been killing rhinos with poisoned cabbage.
Most of them are working as poaching agents for South African based rhino horn dealers, the poachers are placing poisoned cabbages on animal drinking points so that when the animals come for water they will also eat them. They will then track them until they die, then take off the horns.
But the poachers have not stopped there. They have also poisoned water sources, which is killing cattle.
The biggest problem is that our cattle also drink from the same sources and are also eating the same cabbages and dying. They are even poisoning some small dams around this area with the hope that rhinos will drink from them which have caused serious environmental problems in this area.
In addition to poisoning rhinos and cattle, Mr. Maponga pointed out that the war veterans have indiscriminately cut down trees to sell firewood, which has destroyed the surrounding wildlife habitat.
They indiscriminately cut down trees to sell firewood to people who come from towns like Chiredzi and Nyika growth point leaving the animals without cover.
Rhino poaching ‘epicenter’
A recent study confirmed that Zimbabwe and South Africa form the epicenter of the rhino poaching crisis, which is poised to undermine decades of conservation success. The resurgence of mass rhino killings is driven by the deadly combination of demand for rhino horn and rising incomes in Asia, mostly China, and increasingly, Vietnam.
Unfortunate cultural superstitions claim that rhino horn is a remedy for common ailments such as pain and fever, although extensive scientific testing has confirmed that rhino horn actually contains no medicinal properties.