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Poachers caught with 13kg live pangolin

WILDLIFE activists in Hwange, Thursday, intercepted two poachers who were in possession of a ‘monster’ female pangolin weighing over 13kg, which is said to be one of the biggest finds in the country.

Pangolins are protected under the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Act, and the country has one of the strictest laws against pangolin poaching in Africa.

Illegally possessing or dealing in pangolin attracts a prison sentence of up to 12 years, according to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks).

Farm 52 manager in Lobangwe, Matetsi under Hwange District, Wisdom Bushe Neshavi, told CITE that members of the voluntary anti-poaching programme, which he runs, caught the poachers.

“Our voluntary anti-poaching programme is aimed at taking care of wildlife and educating others about the dangers of poaching. While doing their rounds, a patrol team made up of two locals, Skhumbuzo Mathe and Aristotle Tusai picked up poachers’ prints at Katuna Farm around 7 am yesterday,” he said.

“They tracked the prints and learnt the poachers were moving into Farm 52. They tracked them for seven kilometres up the hill. The two poachers tried to run away but the patrol team gave chase.”

Neshavi said the poachers had with them eight ‘big’ dogs, a spear, axe and matches.

“The patrol team also found the poachers’ base camp in the bush where there was a pangolin jacket, meaning hunting pangolins could have been their everyday job,” he said.

“The rescued pangolin weighed 13.635 kg and was taken in by officials from Wildlife Trust Victoria Falls for rehabilitation.

“The biggest pangolin ever seen weighed 15 to 16 kg and this one is one the biggest in Zimbabwe, if not Africa. The rehabilitation is to manage the pangolin’s stress levels, making sure it’s not cheeky and not traumatised. It will then be released to my care to be let loose in the wild again.”

When the two poachers were caught, they claimed they wanted to eat it but Neshavi dismissed their claims.

“If they wanted to eat it, they would have killed it already. The poachers keeping the pangolin alive means they had a buyer for it. A kg of pangolin costs roughly US$500,” he said.

“We handed over the poachers to Hwange police and they await court for sentencing while officials from wildlife authority also came to document the incident.”

Owner of Katuna Farm, Mike Karasellos, donated 20 litres of fuel and a shotgun towards the anti-poaching programme to improve resource supply.

“We are happy to have people who care for conservation efforts, so I’m donating fuel and a 12 gauge shotgun so that our local rangers can be armed and defend themselves as they go about protecting wildlife,” he said.

Neshavi also expressed gratitude to Mqondisi Ndlovu, the owner of Farm 53 and Simbarashe Gweshe of Deltabridge Farm for providing technical assistance as well.

ZimParks Spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo, confirmed the incident and encouraged people to desist from believing in myths related to pangolins.

“People must stop believing there is a ready market for pangolins. Pangolins are specially protected animals and hunting them results in a lengthy sentence,” he said.

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