By Chipo Masara
Welcome to 2014. Hopefully, we are all getting into the new year rejuvenated and ready to make the world a better place.
The start of a new year is usually that time people recap on how they would have fared in the previous year, looking at how best to correct mistakes made, as well as to reinforce on the good.
2013 was not a very good year for Zimbabwe, on the environmental front. I will personally always associate the year with the gruesome massacre of what some believe to be almost 500 elephants from cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park, the country’s biggest wildlife reserve.
The fact that the poachers responsible for the destructive operation were actually camping in the game park, exposed just how insecure the country’s wildlife reserves have become.
That the elephant killings happened at a time the country had embarked on an ambitious project to revive tourism, did the country a disservice.
The killings happened not long after Zimbabwe had just co-hosted with neighbouring Zambia the much-hailed United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly in Victoria Falls and Zambia’s Livingstone, respectively.
ZimParks, the body entrusted with looking into the wildlife’s welfare, blamed Hwange National Park’s penetration by poachers on insufficient funding to allow them to properly attend to their mandate.
It is no secret that most tourists, both foreign and local, are mostly lured by the country’s wildlife. They need to see animals in their natural habitat, and not caged up in some zoo. If the country is indeed serious about reviving the tourism sector, enough to see it contributing significantly to the country’s GDP, then stern measures need to be put in place to ensure wildlife is well-protected.
As for the poaching syndicates that are believed to now be well-machinated and will stop at nothing to get what they want, maybe it is about time the police upped their game and made it a priority to find out just who is behind the syndicates.
The recently appointed Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere has a mammoth task ahead of him indeed as everyone waits with bated breath to see if he will turn out to be the knight in shining armour.