Zim land encroachers a threat to elephants
Harare - About 70 elephants in a wildlife park in south-eastern Zimbabwe are under threat from a new wave of land encroachers, a conservation group warned on Thursday.
The elephants in the remote Chiredzi River Conservancy have nowhere to go, said Johnny Rodrigues, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF).
"For the past week, there has been a new influx of people cutting down trees, poaching and destroying the already damaged environment," he said.
Rodrigues said the conservancy was first invaded 11 years ago, at the start of President Robert Mugabe's chaotic land reform programme.
The encroachers and elephants had managed to co-exist, said Rodrigues. But now the elephants are being harassed, chased and snared by the new settlers, he said.
Some elephant calves have gone missing, while at least two juvenile elephants have been killed and decapitated, he said. "One elephant has a new snare embedded in its flesh."
Animals in Zimbabwe's private game conservancies, many of them located on white-owned commercial farms, have been over-run by poachers in the wake of the land reform programme.
Since 2000, more than 4 000 white farmers have been evicted from the land to make way for supporters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.