By Farai Kuvirimirwa
The future of endangered species of animals in the country is under threat and conservation efforts should be scaled up to preserve them, the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe has said.
Dr Mugabe, patron of the Wildlife Ecological Trust, said this on Tuesday at Hwange National Park where she addressed hundreds of people who gathered for the commemoration of an ecological disaster in which 106 elephants were poisoned last year.
"We would like to reflect on the tragic events of 2013 when through poisoning, we sadly lost over a hundred elephants. I also hasten to underscore Government's commitment to the conservation of not only elephants but all wildlife resources in Zimbabwe," said Dr Mugabe.
"Zimbabwe is working with Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia to implement wildlife conservation initiatives in this area. The collaboration with our neighbouring state ensures not only biodiversity conservation but socio-economic and tourism development," said Dr Mugabe.
She added that poaching of wildlife poses a serious threat to security in the country and more should be done to combat illegal hunting of wildlife.
"The use of poisons for wildlife poaching is a major threat to key wildlife species in Zimbabwe," she said. "The growing and increased complexity of wildlife poaching not only affects our national economies but poses serious threats to the security of our countries and we therefore need to remain vigilant."
She said; "We value the collaborative effort in the development of practical strategies to ensure the sustainability and viability of all natural resources. We pay tribute to rangers who lost their lives in the execution of duties and the Government of Zimbabwe is once again a pacesetter in efforts to create awareness of wildlife crime and to foster coordinated enforcement action that will be incorporated into mainstream long term strategies for biodiversity conservation at national level."
She explained that Zimbabwe was privilleged to be one of the few countries in the world where large areas of land set aside as protected areas still had viable populations of various species of endangered plants and animals.
"Issues related to addressing local community needs are of critical importance in curbing the illegal killing of wildlife," she said.
The event was attended by Ministers of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo, Environment, Water and Climate Saviour Kasukuwere and Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs, Cde Cain Mathema, among others.
Minister Kasukuwere said poisoning of wildlife was a major setback on conservation efforts by the country.
"We applaud the judiciary which gave deterrent sentences to the perpetrators of the callous activity without a flaw and we need not destroy what God gave us. It is a heritage to guard," he said.