By Gill Staden
The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority said in an article in the Zimbabwe Gazette last week that the country's elephant population was 100 000 strong and becoming too large to manage.
Zimparks spokesman Caroline Washaya-Moyo said the elephant population - the third-biggest in the world - was putting a strain on the resources in the country's parks and the animals were becoming easy targets for poachers.
"Law enforcement requires operational equipment such as patrol kits, uniforms, radio communication kits, vehicles, boats, tracking equipment [eg GPS\," said Washaya-Moyo.
"Currently, most of the existing field equipment is old and obsolete. Poachers are getting sophisticated. In some situations poachers are using hi-tech gear including night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquillisers, silencers and helicopters."
Washaya-Moyo said that, unlike in other countries, Zimparks was not funded by the government. The parks authority currently owned a stockpile of 62 374.33 tons of ivory worth $15.6-million (about R159.5-million), which it was not allowed to export as it is bound by regulations from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
"The authority is therefore saying elephant ivory in store represents animals that are already dead. Why should we not use the dead to look after living animals?" she asked.
Conservationists in Zimbabwe are, however, sceptical about the numbers of elephants quoted.
The last comprehensive elephant census in the country was done in 2001, when their largest population, in Hwange National Park, was counted. Elephant estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's elephant database from last year indicates an estimated 76930 animals in the country with only 47366 being "definite". More....