Porous Borders a Haven for Wildlife Poachers in Hwange

Family herd of elephants...Cross border crimes, including wildlife poaching, are rampant. Image by Stock photos

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | JULY 7, 2022

Poaching crimes continue unabated as poachers take advantage of lapse security personnel to stalk endangered animals in Hwange National Park. Villagers believe that unless they are included in anti-poaching committees, efforts to curb the scourge will not yield any positive results.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Patrick Moyo, a former community wildlife ranger in Matetsi village, ward 1, narrates how poaching syndicates took advantage of porous borders to commit their crime.

“...for example, in Pandamatenga there is a police post with cops and immigration officials, but patrols are limited,” Moyo says.

“Some groups from Hwange national park and the Zambezi national park take turns to patrol but it’s a vast area.

“Unlike populated areas, poachers easily use these routes to come into Zimbabwe, or they just poach in those areas and go.”

Pandamatenga borders Zimbabwe and Botswana, and stretches all the way to the Zambian border covering vast tracts of land where there are game parks such as the Hwange national park.

Cross border crimes, including wildlife poaching, are rampant.

Villagers in Matetsi, one of the wildlife sanctuaries in Hwange, Matabeleland North, say there is a need for authorities to roll out security interventions to fight poaching.

“From what we hear and see in Gonarezhou, it seems a lot is happening towards the protection of biodiversity,” says Melusi Ncube, a villager.

“It is our desire as a community to see the government lobbying for the same in Matabeleland North. I feel it is an intervention which reduces human-wildlife conflict while focusing  on investment of natural resources.”

According to the 2018 Game Census for Hwange National Park and surrounding areas carried by Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe Matabeleland Branch, the population count of the endangered animals in the park was carried out on leopards, cheetahs, African Lion, wild dogs and African elephants. The black and white rhinoceros were part of the mammals which were not counted in the census.

In 2002, the Presidents of Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe signed the international Treaty for the establishment of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTCA) to eliminate cross-border poaching.

A transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) refers to a cross-border region whose different component areas have different forms of conservation status such as national parks, private game reserves, communal natural resource management areas and even hunting concession areas.

Conservationists say TFCAs provide a platform for the future development and implementation of the second-phase Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), which includes an even wider variety of land uses.

According to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), the GLTFCA is an extensive area of essentially flat savannah bisected North-South by the Lebombo mountain range.

It is home to three biomes, grasslands, forest and savannah.

This area is constituted of owl and savannah ecosystem landscapes including lowland plains savannah in the larger part of the area, hilly granite plateau in the western portions, and the Lebombo Mountains.

There are five major vegetation types in the GLTFCA, including mopane woodlands and shrubveld, mixed bushveld, sandveld in the south-east of Mozambique, riverine woodlands in the Kruger and Gonarezhou National Parks, and seasonally flooded dry grasslands in Banhine National Park.

Findings by The Citizen Bulletin reveal that there is abundance of wildlife in the GLTP with a total of 147 species of mammal, 116 reptile species, 49 species of fish, 34 species of frogs, 500 or more bird species, in addition to at least 2,000 species of plants.

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On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the GLFTA, ministers of Environment from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe met virtually on April 13, this year to discuss various issues related to the collaborative management of this important cross-border conservation area.

They noted the “great strides made in enhancing security and wildlife protection within the GLTFCA through the development of a GLTFCA Joint Security plans,” and the development of a Transboundary Tourism Strategic Framework.

The establishment and development of transfrontier Conservation Areas is seen as necessary towards the conservation, and sustainable utilization of natural resources beyond national boundaries.

But despite all these cross-border efforts to curb poaching, Trynos Goba of Matetsi village believes communities must be at the center of all conservation interventions.

“It is unfortunate that despite the need for conservation, communities are the key stakeholders who are most often left in the cold and benefit nothing but wildlife/human conflicts or threats from officials,” says Goba.

*Edited by Lizwe Sebatha | Fact checked/proofread by Melody Mpande | Reviewed by Divine Dube.

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Wildlife poaching, Environment, Matabeleland North, Hwange

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