Covid-19: Poaching activities surge in Hwange National Park

By Dumisani Nyoni

Poaching activities have increased in the Hwange National Park since the outbreak of Covid-19, with a local wildlife organisation-Painted Dog Conservation (PDC)-revealing that it removed more than 1 186 snares during the period ending June this year.

Last year in the same period, the organisation, situated close to Hwange National Park, removed 471 snares.

Zimbabwe has been under lockdown since March this year due to Covid-19, resulting in many people losing their source of incomes.

Addressing journalists during a media tour organised by the Cultural Information Trust on Thursday, PDC education and community development programmes manager, Wilton Nsimango said poaching activities had increased in the Hwange National Park since the outbreak of Covid-19.

“We have noted a quite increase in the poaching activities as of the Covid 19 period. In the period ending June 2020, for instance, we have had 1 186 snares that we have removed compared to 471 same period 2019,” Nsimango said.

PDC was formed solely to conserve painted dogs, the endangered species.

“The reason behind that increase is generally the pandemic. We have so many people that have been employed around but they are no longer employed. Breadwinners of the community are no longer breadwinners. They have lost their jobs,” he said.

“Therefore, the number of people seeking family needs has increased. So to meet their needs, they resort to poaching which they think is the cheapest resource available.”

Nsimango, however, said those people were doing that under difficult conditions from the local communities “because of the education that we have instilled in people.”

“They are sneaking out and making sure they are not seen, but they are doing it.”

In a bid to further curtail poaching activities, Nsimango said they have engaged the locals to patrol the park, removing snares. They are also educating the communities around Hwange National Park.

Chief Dingani Nelukuba of Dete commended PDC for protecting the painted dogs, including domestic animals, by removing snares and educating the locals on the importance of conserving the wildlife.

Painted dogs are some of the endangered species in the world, with their population in Africa declining to 7 000 from 500 000 recorded at the turn of the 20th Century.

Currently, there are about 200 painted dogs at Hwange National Parks, according to PDC

Some of the challenges facing painted dogs include traffic accidents, shootings and snares, all caused by humans.

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