Zim minister vows 'serious reforms' in wake of elephant poisonings: Report

2015-11-08 12:53


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Harare - Zimbabwe's environment minister has promised "serious reforms" in the wildlife industry in the wake of the poisoning of dozens of elephants in Hwange, although she maintains there have been "worse killings" elsewhere.

Oppah Muchinguri told the state Sunday Mail that there were not enough rangers patrolling Hwange National Park and those that did live in the vast park endured "deplorable" work conditions.

The minister said more resources had to be given to communities surrounding the park - where most of the 60 elephant poisonings took place in October - so that "they do not harbour poachers."

The killings have been back in the news this week following the arrest and detention of three journalists from the state press following a story alleging the involvement of a top police officer in some of the poisonings. 

Police have charged Mabasa Sasa, Tinashe Farawo and Brian Chitemba, all from the Sunday Mail, with publishing falsehoods. They could face a fine or 20 years in jail if convicted.

The police move has provoked public condemnation, with prominent columnist Nathaniel Manheru from the Herald saying on Saturday: "It does not suggest a sound democracy when petty, journalistic reports attract disproportionate responses from those who wield awesome power."

Manheru is widely believed to be the pen-name of President Robert Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba.

Analysts have pointed out that arrests of journalists from the private press, which were frequent during the crisis years of 2000-8, did not attract similar condemnation from the authorities.

The environment minister did not mention the journalists' arrests in her Sunday Mail interview.

"We are pulling out all the stops to get to the bottom of cyanide poaching," Muchinguri was quoted as saying.

But she also complained that Zimbabwe's wildlife industry was a victim of "too much bad publicity".

"The 60-plus elephants we have lost are few compared to those killed in other countries," she told the newspaper.

In a separate report, the Sunday Mail said that a lion, baboons "and other small animals" had been poisoned in August in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools, nearly 650km from Hwange.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  wildlife  |  animals

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