Government has enacted new laws imposing stiffer penalties of up to 11 years for poaching protected animals, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has said.
ZPWMA public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo said the new laws would affect criminals who kill any protected animals gazetted by the Ministry Environment and Natural Resources Management.
"Any person who is convicted for unlawful killing of a rhinoceros or elephant is expected to be sentenced to nine years for a first offender or eleven years for a second or subsequent offender," she said.
The new penalties are contained in the General Laws Amendment Act of 2011, amending the Parks and Wildlife Act.
Ms Washaya-Moyo said the new laws would help curb rampant poaching of rhinos and elephants.
Zimbabweans are known to target rhinos and elephants for markets in Far East countries fronted by wealthy international criminal syndicates.
Financial challenges have crippled ZPWMA efforts to curtail poaching.
Zimbabwe is currently stuck with over 50 tonnes of ivory which the country has been prohibited to sell under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
It had been hoped that permission to sell the ivory stockpile worth over US$10 million
would boost capacity of the authority to fund its conservation activities.
CITES, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand last week noted that reliable techniques on wildlife trade tracking and forensic methods were needed to combat organised wildlife crimes, together with stronger punishments.