CSOs express concern over Zim govt’s ‘shady’ wildlife trade

….wildlife organisations petition Parly

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

There are concerns on the veil of secrecy around  the trade in ivory and other wildlife products by the government that has prompted a number of environment and wildlife organisations to petition parliament to push for transparency of wildlife trade.

A newly formed   organisation People and Earth Solidarity Network teamed up with Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ), Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust (SAWC), Voices for African Wildlife (VFAW), Tikobane Trust, Zimbabwe Youth Biodiversity Network (ZYBN) and the Zimbabwe Elephants Foundation (ZEF) and petitioned parliament last week  requesting that the general public be privy to the information on wildlife trade.

“The People and Earth Solidarity Law Network (PESLawyers) with the support of environmental and wildlife organisations in Zimbabwe, petition Parliament of Zimbabwe on  requesting that information and decisions concerning the export of Zimbabwean elephants, rhinos and other wildlife be made transparent and accessible to the public,” read part of the petition.

According to the organisations,  the  wildlife management practises by the ZimParks which is the government authority   are appalling hence  the petition.

“Concerned that the current wildlife management practices of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority especially on the capture and export of wildlife lack transparency and contravene principles of public accountability,” revealed the organisations in the petition.

The petitions seeks to compel Parliament to ‘investigate the capture and export of wildlife to various international destinations, especially on whether the export of species is done in a way that ‘minimise the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment’ as provided for by Article IV of the CITES Convention’.

It also agitates for crafting and reviewing legislation that protects wildlife and environment

“Review all legislation that negatively impacts on the welfare of animals and the general environment, and further to make legislative changes that ensure that the capture of wild elephants, rhinos and other wildlife for zoos, captive sites or non-secure foreign parks will no longer take place in Zimbabwe,” states the organisations.

In  response  to the allegations, ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo  hit back saying the organisations are seeking relevance and misinformed  as the authority boasts of the second biggest elephant population which points to sound management.

“Those organisations are grandstanding and should not be taken seriously because right now   Zimbabwe has the second biggest elephant population which aptly shows you how the authority is  effective in managing wildlife.

“If you look closely  you will see that the organisations have no iota of knowledge on wildlife management but are just lawyers while   the wildlife ecosystem is scientific based ,” queried Farawo.

Responding to lack of transparency in funds realised in wildlife trade,  Farawo   said the authority   is  channelling resources to various programmes like anti-poaching units and there is clear indication the funds are being put to sustainable development

Former First Lady Grace Mugabe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s daughter were once sucked in illicit ivory trade court case last year.

In 2013, reports suggested that more than 300 elephants died in Hwange National Park as a result of poachers lacing the park’s watering holes and salt licks with cyanide poison and this over the years has been an occurrence though now on   a decline.