Thieves threaten animal conservation projects

By Nokuthaba Dlamini 

The Bhejane Trust, an animal conservation group says they are experiencing a challenge of theft of solar and water pumps in the Zambezi and Matetsi parks, a situation that threatens water supplies to animals at the parks.

Bhejane Trust founder Trevor Lane said “with the collapsing economy and increasing levels of desperation” the thefts were increasingly getting difficult to stop. 

“The Zambezi and Matetsi areas have been particularly hard hit by a very determined professional gang of thieves, who have resorted to using crowbars to break the retaining clamps on the panels, and have even, in one instance, smashed seven panels to steal,” Lane noted. 

“They have also started to steal pumps and cables. We lost a few panels from Chamabonda 3 and Chamabonda 2, but luckily had replacement panels in stock, which have been welded securely in place.” 

He said they have also lost some solar panels in Sinamatella and Deka Safari Area in Hwange. 

The Grundfos panels with very high voltage, are specialized to the Grundfos pump and the thieves also uproot the pumps. 

To mitigate and trap the thieves, Lane said they have tasked a welder to secure all the panels and pumps, while Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have mounted a big operation to protect the panels and hunt down the criminals.  

“But to date no luck, a large reward has also been offered by one of the operators, without any result so far.”

Meanwhile, in Gwai, Painted Dog Conservation Trust’s anti-poaching team arrested 2 poachers early this week in the Gwayi hunting safari, after being found in possession of a carcass of a male baboon. 

They were arrested between Mopani woodland and open Savannah grasslands.

“Loss of jobs and dwindling income opportunities for local communities due to Covid-19 crisis have led to desperation which has, in turn, put wildlife and the environment under immense pressure with poaching,” the conservationists noted. 

“Our anti-poaching unit continues to provide frontline protection for painted dogs and many other species in the areas surrounding Hwange National Park. They have not missed a single day to patrol since the beginning of the lockdown.”

Matabeleland North police spokesperson Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese said the matter is now before the Hwange courts. 

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