By Peta Thornycroft
A Namibian, who claims to be part of a regional evangelical group, is being investigated on charges he was poaching in Zimbabwe last week.
Police and the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority say they are investigating whether Gerhard Burger, 62, shot at and wounded an elephant on July 31.
Locals in the Mwenezi district, southern Zimbabwe, say that elephants from Kruger National Park and the Gonarezhou National Park migrate north in dry months and are regulars in the area.
Burger claimed he was legally on a ranch in the Mwenezi district on July 31 with a licensed weapon, and was going to hunt on land with a permit.
But he was shooting on land used by rancher Brian Cawood, who said Burger had no right to shoot and wound an elephant on his property on July 31.
Cawood said Burger was with a man wearing a World Vision T-shirt. “After receiving a report that rifle shots were heard near a water point, I proceeded to investigate.
“I came across fresh vehicle tracks and noticed that they were following fresh elephant tracks. I soon came across two elephant bulls and one had blood oozing from behind the right shoulder.
“Looking along the fence line I spotted a vehicle speeding off. I followed it and soon caught up. I sped past and blocked the vehicle. I approached the person, Burger, and asked what he was doing.”
Cawood said Burger was “extremely aggressive”.
“He grabbed my arm and drove over the fence line speeding off with me dangling on the side of the vehicle. I managed to free myself and fell down and the vehicle drove over my left leg. I returned home and reported the matter to the police.
“Early the next day National Parks arrived. Investigations showed that six shots were fired at the place where the two bull elephant were seen. Burger was found hunting in an adjacent area and questioned. “Burger then produced a Bible and spoke about the importance of Jesus.”
Police at Mwenezi said they could not discuss the incident on the phone but that investigations were continuing.
A National Parks investigation has begun. “We were told he was doing target practice at a cardboard box,” said a wildlife employee who is investigating the case and asked not to be named until after he has completed his report.
Another farmer in the area, Namaya Muzorori, said: “My workers told me they saw this man shooting at the elephant. It was very bad.”
Burger, who runs a borehole business in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, and drives a bakkie with Gauteng registration plates, said: “Yes, I was there. What is wrong with hunting? I hunt. I had permission to hunt there. I am Namibian working here in Zimbabwe. I was on that ranch doing borehole work. Don’t listen to lies.”