Zimbabwe: Senior Government Officials in Poaching Scam

by Dec 5, 2011Wildlife News

Rhino Poaching Is Said to Be On the Increase in Zimbabwe With Some of the Cases Cited By Leaked United States Cables Implicating Senior Government Officials.

At the time the cable was written, on December 14, 2009, local conservationists were said to be increasingly concerned that Zimbabwe’s rhinos were on a path to extinction as government officials had failed to take adequate action to stop their slaughter and bring the rhino killers and horn traffickers to justice.

Between 2006 and 2009, one-quarter of the country’s black rhinos were estimated to have been killed by poachers.

“Since 2005, populations of black African rhinos have been either stable or improving in every country in Africa except Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s black rhinos suffered significant poaching losses in the 1990s that reduced their population to just over 300 animals in 1995,” reads part of the cable.

“Between 1995 and 2001, some of Zimbabwe’s intensive protection zones demonstrated the highest reproduction rates seen in the wild, bringing the population to 500-550 black rhinos between 2001 and 2007.

:However, since 2007, poaching has increased dramatically, reducing the population to just over 400 black rhinos at present.”

A Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fau-na and Flora (CITES) report said Vietnam has a growing demand for rhino horn because many believe it can prevent or cure cancer and in turn, cancer patients in desperation are willing to pay increasing sums, further driving up the price and demand.

The US cable blamed the problem on lax law enforcement and what appears to be a growing Asian demand for rhino horn.

It said local rhino conservationists believe that Chinese and Vietnamese smugglers move rhino ho-rn through South Africa to markets in Asia, mostly China and Vietnam.

“A study conducted by Zimbabwean scientists was recently submitted to the CITES and appears on the CITES webpage.

“The report, ‘African and Asian Rhinocero-ses Status, Conservation and Trade,’ . . . estimates that around 235 rhinos (both black and white) were killed in Zimbabwe between 2006 and 2009 half of all rhinos illegally killed in Africa during that time,” reads part of the report.

“In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend to-wards more sophisticated and violent methods of killing, including AK47 assault rifles, immobilising drugs, poison, and crossbows.”