Zimbabwe: Syndicates use planes in rhino poaching onslaught

by Jan 26, 2011Rhinos

A rhino poaching syndicate with political connections is using aircraft in its onslaught against the endangered species. The number of rhino being killed escalated dramatically in December.

In 2008, 70 rhino were killed by poachers in Zimbabwe. The following year saw a 32% reduction in numbers killed and, in 2010, 22 rhinos were killed.

But parks and wildlife director-general Vitalis Chidenga said seven rhino had been killed in the southern part of the country so far this year.

“Imagine by year end what would happen if the poachers are not contained? The problem is that they are now organised criminals,” he said.

Five rhinos were killed at the Matopos National Park in Matabeleland South, while two were killed at Ruware Ranch outside Chiredzi in the Masvingo area.

In a move to curb the sudden rise in poaching the government has deployed the military into the park areas.

But since the army has been helping rangers, rhino poachers have started using aircraft.

“These guys are well-funded. They use aircraft in some instances. Those that shoot on the ground have hi-tech guns fitted with silencers,” added Chidenga.

The aircraft are used to drive the animals into areas where they can be “taken down” easily without being detected by security forces.

Chidenga earlier said the poachers had links to neighbouring countries, such as South Africa and Botswana, where the problem is bigger.

“We are left with about a thousand rhinos,” said Chidenga.

Reports in South Africa say the country has about 21000 rhinos and last year about 333 were poached. Poachers are now turning to Zimbabwe, where they say security is lax.

“Zimbabweans are greedy. The locals can help you kill elephants for a fee and the security is not that sophisticated. That is why these South African guys are turning to Zimbabwe. Don’t be fooled, politicians are also involved,” said a safari operator from Matabeleland North who declined to be named.