Is There Ecological Change In Zimbabwe?
Since the formation of a power sharing agreement and the recent changes that accompanied it, people have been asking the burning question. Has the political change brought about an ecological change in Zimbabwe?
It has been decided to interview Johnny Rodrigues of the ZCTF [Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force] about an update of the efforts to conserve animals in Zimbabwe which is a herculean task in itself.
It is a pleasure and honor to have Johnny Rodrigues at Now Public. Here was the content of the interview.1. What are the reasons that wildlife has not enjoyed the benefits of the positive changes in certain aspects of Zimbabwean Life?
The positive changes I was referring to are things like a lot of people are now receiving wages in USD which makes their lives a lot easier and the supermarkets are now quite well stocked with food. Of course, there are still millions of unemployed people in the rural areas who are starving but life is becoming a bit easier, especially for the people in the urban areas. Also, the government has now accepted assistance from the non-governmental organizations so we have received donations of medical supplies to help with the cholera epidemic.
With regard to the wildlife though, the same people who have been the guardians for the past 30 years are still in place. We were really hoping that there were going to be some different people appointed - people who would put a stop to all the killing and realize the enormous value of the wildlife for the tourism industry but the same people are continuing to kill elephants to feed the army and to raise money for National Parks so nothing has changed there.
2. There has been a loss of 15 Rhinos in 2009, are there other animals that have been affected and were there losses with other animals?
Yes, a lot of other animals have been affected. The poaching continues to intensify and the killing of elephants is ongoing. The reason we keep a careful count of the rhino is because it is an endangered species.
3. The other animals that have been affected such as Hippos and Elephants. What have been the statistics concerning hippos and elephants?
I don't have statistics for these.
4. It appears that the crocodiles have been receiving Hippo Meat instead of Elephant Meat, what brought about the change in attitude?
I don't know for sure but I believe it could be because of the public outcry, especially from the Kariba residents about the amount of elephants being shot. It could also be because National Parks believe there are greater numbers of hippo and it is much more cost effective to shoot hippos. Hippos live in water and many live near the crocodile farm so from a transportation point of view, it would be much easier to get the hippo meat to the croc farm. When they shoot elephants, they don't always kill them outright - sometimes they only wound them and then the elephant disappears into the bush and dies, sometimes days later. The wounded elephant may die several kilometres away from the croc farm and then they have the problem of firstly finding the dead elephant and secondly transporting the carcass to the croc farm. Sometimes they don't find the carcass at all or by the time they find it, it's too late because it's already decomposed and been eaten by hyena and vultures.
5. Is there any instances in which Crocodiles have been killed in order to be sold as luggage, wallets, belts, or even as meat? I base this question on the fact that once in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Florida, people killed crocodiles in the past and sold the meat in England.
Yes, of course. This is the main purpose of a commercial crocodile farm. I have heard that the crocodile farm in Charara, Kariba, which is owned by National Parks in partnership with Lake Harvest Fisheries, have a contract to supply about 650 000 crocodile skins per year to a European country. Obviously these skins are made into wallets, handbags etc. They also sell crocodile tails to a western country where it is considered to be a delicacy. As this, and other croc farms use elephant or hippo meat to feed their crocs, the people buying the crocodile products are indirectly encouraging and supporting the slaughter of our wildlife. There are some croc farms in Zimbabwe where they use a special feed for the crocs which doesn't contain any animal meat and it would be much better for people to buy the products from them. The problem is, this special feed is expensive and that's why some of the farms prefer to rather use elephant or hippo meat.
6. You are promoting "Innocent Victims" by Cathy Buckle as well as "The Elephant and I" by Sharon Pincott, What has been their involvement in the conservation of animals in Zimbabwe?
Cathy Buckle is well known all over the world for her weekly news letter about life in Zimbabwe and she has also reared orphaned animals such as elephants. Her book is the story of Meryl Harrison who was the Chief Inspector of the SPCA here for many years. Meryl is a heroine in my eyes because she constantly put her life in danger trying to save all the animals that suffered during the land reform programme. She also assisted me in my quest to preserve the wildlife.
Sharon Pincott is an Australian who came on holiday to Zimbabwe about 8 years ago. She fell in love with the elephants so when she went back to Australia, she packed up and came to live here to study the elephants, mainly the Presidential Herd in Hwange National Park. She lives alone in a tiny rondavel near the game park and spends most of her life with the elephants. The elephants all know her now and she can actually touch some of them. She tries very hard to protect them.
7. Is there the possibility of a brighter future for the animals in Zimbabwe?
Well, I suppose where there's life there's still hope. When the economic situation improves, the people won't have to resort to killing animals on such a big scale. We desperately need some new blood in National Parks and we need people who really care about the animals.
8. What can the International Community do for the conservation of wild animals in Zimbabwe?
They could voice their protests about the ongoing slaughter of the wildlife and with regard to the people who buy crocodile products; they could try and ensure they are buying from crocodile farms that don't feed their crocodiles on wildlife meat.
9. Does the ZCTF know the name of the medication used against Rhinos?
10. Are there any other developments that have occurred with regards to wildlife in Zimbabwe?
Not that I know of. When I hear of anything, I will send out a report.
I would like to thank you for the time spent with Now Public.