By Oscar Nkala
The Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) has recalled former game rangers and specialised anti-poaching support staff in an emergency bid to boost the number of personnel deployed to fight an escalating elephant poaching crisis in Hwange National Park.
Last weekend, poachers used sodium cyanide to kill 11 more elephants, pushing the number of elephants confirmed to have been killed through cyanide poisoning in the park to 127. So far, two men have since been arrested and will appear in court tomorrow. Thirteen elephant tusks have also been recovered.
In a desperate response to what has been described as the worst poaching crisis in the country's conservation history, the authority's director-general Eddison Chidziya said the poaching crisis has spiralled out of control.
"All employees who had an amicable separation with Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority who feel can make a meaningful contribution to anti-poaching should report to the nearest parks offices on Monday (today). Already we have given instructions to re-engage ex-employees so that they can contribute," Chidziya said.
Chidziya said Hwange National Park, which requires at least 700 rangers to police effectively, presently has 146 game rangers and wants to boost the number of rangers and revive helicopter patrols to support the fight against poaching. However, he said achieving these goals will be difficult because the government is unable to provide adequate funding.
"We are hopeful that Government will also come to our rescue as they have always done and ensure we are capacitated. We have very serious resource constraints," Chidziya said. The call for manpower comes as the government struggles to dispose of more than 120 elephant carcasses already confirmed dead through cyanide poisoning in the park.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi also hinted last week that the government may deploy the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) to fight poaching in Hwange. The parks authority has blamed its failure to protect the elephant and rhino population in Hwange on United States and European Union sanctions saying the restricted measures directly led to the cutting of critical international financial and material support for anti-poaching efforts.