US embassy cable - 02HARARE1221

POACHING OF WILDLIFE IS RAMPANT IN ZIMBABWE

Identifier: 02HARARE1221
Wikileaks: View 02HARARE1221 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Harare
Created: 2002-05-21 14:35:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: ECON EAGR SENV ZI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001221 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR AF/S, AF/EX, HR/OE 
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER 
USDOC FOR 2037 JDIEMOND 
LONDON FOR CGURNEY 
PARIS FOR NEARY 
RIO FOR WWEISSMAN 
PRETORIA FOR AG ATTACHE 
PASS USTR - ROSA WHITAKER 
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND C WILKINSON 
INTERIOR FOR FWS, FWS-A1A 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A 
TAGS: ECON, EAGR, SENV, ZI 
SUBJECT: POACHING OF WILDLIFE IS RAMPANT IN ZIMBABWE 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. 
NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING. 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary: The poaching of wild game, by both 
commercial and subsistence hunters, has now reached 
crisis proportions in Zimbabwe.  Game is being 
illegally taken from occupied private reserves and 
conservancies, national parks, and occupied farms that 
may or may not border protected game areas.  The 
hunting and wild game industry claims that US $40 
million of game has been poached from private reserves 
since the land invasions started in 2000 (based on lost 
international hunting revenue).  Snaring is endemic on 
occupied properties including commercial farms and game 
preserves, and national park boundaries are no longer 
respected by rural dwellers, be it for grazing, 
firewood collection or wildlife harvesting.  Also 
associated with the poaching is widespread destruction 
of habitat, mainly deforestation, but also riparian 
damage caused by illegal gold panning and unmanaged 
poor farming practices. End Summary. 
 
2.  (SBU) Organized commercial poaching has gotten so 
bad in the Zambezi Valley that the Minister of 
Environment and Tourism recently announced the dispatch 
of a 200-man task force of soldiers, police and 
National Parks game scouts and guides to help control 
the stock loss.  One contact at National Parks told 
Econoff that between 6 and 10 elephants were being 
killed monthly in the Kariba/Zambezi Valley park 
system.  The situation was degenerating fast, he told 
us, and he and his colleagues had pointed out to their 
superiors the threat the rampant poaching poised to 
Zimbabwe's obligations under the CITES convention and 
also the Trans-Boundary Park and Conservation 
agreements recently signed by Zimbabwe.  It was only 
these factors that got action, because in many cases 
the local powers-that-be share in the spoils of the 
organized hunting groups. 
 
3.  (SBU) The commercial poachers, who are armed and 
often utilize packs of dogs, target elephants and 
rhinos for their trophies, and all other plains game 
for their meat.  The informal or subsistence poachers 
target anything that moves, and use wire snares to 
capture or disable their prey. A number of factors lie 
behind this increased activity, and principal among 
them are: the general decline in respect for law and 
order engendered by GOZ-sanctioned activity against 
opposition supporters in the pre- and post-election 
period; the widespread invasion and occupation of 
commercial farms and game reserves or conservancies 
(and the associated notion that anything on the 
properties is, so to speak, fair game); declining 
incomes; and growing food insecurity. 
 
4.  (SBU) The conservancy and hunting industry tells us 
that it has lost game worth more than US $40 million 
since the farm and property invasions began in 2000. 
Some conservancies have lost 60 percent of their 
animals.  The Parks Service is unable to quantify its 
losses, and up until recently it was denying that a 
problem even existed.  Ruling party officials and 
provincial authorities have been witnessed on numerous 
occasions by commercial farmers and professional 
hunters leading weekend sweeps in public and private 
game parks, and on farms occupied by indigenous 
settlers.  A weekly independent newspaper recently 
published details of a letter from a rural district 
council chairman to the local police officer-in-charge, 
seeking police transport, personnel and weapons to 
shoot a dozen large plains game animals on listed and 
unlisted farms to feed ZANU-PF youth militia at four 
training camps located in the district.  Similar 
behavior, but less well documented, occurs daily we are 
told. 
 
5.  (SBU) The head of the Save Conservancy, one of the 
world's largest private game sanctuaries (3,400 sq. 
km), recently stated that game loss and habitat 
destruction from settlers on designated portions of the 
reserve has "reached the point where we have to 
reconsider the future and viability of the whole 
project.  Since August 2001 we have documented a total 
of 718 animals killed, including 6 wild dogs (of a 
total of 110), one black rhino, five elephant, 68 
eland, 312 impala, 175 kudu, a leopard, 27 zebra and 52 
warthogs and other smaller game."  The undocumented 
loss could easily be much larger than this count, as 
large occupied areas of the conservancy have been no-go 
areas for more than 18 months.  At another conservancy 
in the same region, an anti-poaching patrol came across 
a poachers' camp two weeks and "we caught five guys 
with 34 dead warthog, and a whole bunch of sable, 
antelope, bush pigs and dassies (the hyrax, a badger 
relative).  They'd been there for 4 days and some of 
the meat was already going off, but they were still 
hunting.  The warthogs alone had a trophy value of US 
$100-200 each." 
 
6.  (SBU) Comment: Poaching has undeniably ramped up 
steeply in the last year, and the head of the Wildlife 
Association told Econoff that he believes that at least 
20 percent of the national total herd has been taken in 
the last two years.  The owners of two butcher shops 
that sell to the residents of high-density townships in 
the small towns of Bindura and Marondera related that 
over the last six months 20 to 40 percent of their meat 
sales have been game, which is clearly being hunted 
aggressively to supplement incomes and food needs.  As 
is the case with commercial agriculture, no one in 
government seems particularly concerned that a national 
asset is being stolen and destroyed with great 
rapidity, contributing to Zimbabwe's slide to a 
distopia.  End Comment. 
 
SULLIVAN 

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