By Oscar Nkala
A crack team comprising Zimbabwean police, intelligence and Parks and Wildlife Management Authority officers has apprehended two members of a suspected tightly knit poaching syndicate that smuggled 447 kilogrammes of ivory to Dubai. The ivory was stashed under a wooden artefact and cleared at the Harare International Airport in July, destined for Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. Deputy Police Commissioner-General Innocent Matibiri yesterday said investigations were in progress. “Information we have shows that sometime in July, a wooden artefact was flown to Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. However, through our intelligence networks with operatives in Dubai, it was discovered that there were pieces of ivory that weighed 447 kilogrammes stashed under the wooden sculpture. “There have been arrests. We are still carrying out investigations; that is why the suspects’ names are still being with -held. It is quite obvious that this is a syndicate that involves people in Dubai. As we speak, we have since arrested two people who have implicated five accomplices.” According to details made available yesterday, a female clearing agent with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority stationed at the Harare International Airport was suspected to be part of the scam.The woman is said to have checked the wooden artefact and authorised it to be flown to Dubai as an unaccompanied parcel. When questioned by police, she claimed that she thought the parcel was a wooden artefact. She also revealed that it had been brought to the airport by a 42-year-old man who works for a travel agent known as Huber Hells based in Avondale, Harare. Police later picked up the man who then implicated five other people. The discovery of the ivory at the airport in Dubai comes after more than 60 elephants died from cyanide poisoning at Hwange National Park. The Park’s national area manager, Mr Trumber Jura, said game rangers who were on patrol discovered 13 carcasses on May 22, 2013 and noted that the poachers had poisoned seven salt licks. “The carcasses we have discovered are now 81 and we have managed to recover 50 tusks since the poisoning of the salt licks began in May. To date, 16 poachers have been arrested and two buffaloes, one kudu, two painted dogs and several vultures have died as a result of drinking water from the salt licks. “A lion has also died after eating meat from an elephant carcass,” said Mr Jura. Deputy Commissioner-General Matibiri said police are still trying to establish whether the 447 kilogrammes of ivory discovered in Dubai are linked to the mass elephant killing here in Zimbabwe.