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Villagers Turn To Poaching for Livelihoods

Snare set up by illegal poachers...Poaching increased during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated by economic hardships. Image by Peter Chadwick

BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | NOV 2, 2022

Out of jobs, and facing imminent hunger, some residents say they turned to poaching to get meat for consumption and for sale to earn a living.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — The year 2020 recorded the highest number of poaching activities in the Hwange National Park and in communities surrounding the park, the Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) says.

Poaching for subsistence consumption of game meat generally increased in Hwange during the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated largely by economic hardships and opportunities presented by a reduction in the capacity for anti-poaching enforcement and dwindling numbers of tourists, whose presence tends to deter poachers.

COVID-19 induced lockdowns and travel restrictions resulted in the loss of jobs for most workers in the Safaris Industry. Some of those who were retrenched turned to poaching as a way of earning a living.

“Poaching was my safety net when I lost my job during the peak of COVID-19. I got into the business of selling game meat and biltong at Dete shopping Centre.”
Mike Dube*, a former worker at one of the local safari lodges

According to conservationists, poaching is one of the most pressing threats to the survival of wildlife, especially endangered species.

Poaching for subsistence consumption of game meat was on the rise at the height of the pandemic. Image by Protrack

Ronnie Sibanda, Communication Manager at PDC says the visibility of poaching activities in Hwange was very high during the height of COVID-19.

“PDC removed and confiscated more than 1186 snares during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which were set up by poachers. More than 5000 snares were again removed within the Hwange national park and in surrounding communities. In 2021 we confiscated less than 2000 snares in six months, there was a reduction of snares in the Hwange National Park because we had deployed anti-poaching volunteers on the ground.”
Ronnie Sibanda, PDC Communication Manager

The confiscated snares are then taken to PDC Arts Centre where the wires are given a new life of beautifying people and homes as artefacts and some used as tools for anti-poaching lessons on tourists on educational tours.

“We believe in involving communities and engaging communities whenever we are working towards curbing poaching activities,” says Sibanda.

Community Action for Wildlife Conservation Trust Director, Amos Gwema says he has been working with communities to curb poaching in Hwange during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Conservationists say the participation of local communities is essential for the success of conservation initiatives and in tackling wildlife related crimes.

“We get all the information by working with the community, as poachers come from the community and dispose of wildlife products there,” Gwema says.

Zimparks says from 2021 to date they recorded zero incidences of deaths of elephants linked to cyanide poisoning and poaching.

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