By Elias Mambo
Fake export licences from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority have been used to controversially export Zimbabwe’s wildlife to Asian markets since November 2014, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
Copies of the certificates seen by the Independent show that a certificate with permit number ZW/0436/2015 was issued on October 6 2014 to export four elephants valued at US$320 000 to Kinjian Safari Park in China.
On December 12 2014, a similar certificate with the same number was issued to export eight elephants and two crocodiles again valued at US$320 000 to Taiyan Zoo in China.
Sources said the export certificates used for the two consignments were suspiciously valued at the same figure of US$320 000 even if the orders were different.
“There is fraud going on where cloned certificates are being used in order to siphon the country’s natural resources,” a source said. “There is no way two certificates can be issued with the same certificate number. Obviously, the person responsible for the cloning did a shoddy job.
“The evidence of the cloning is also clear on the value of the consignments,” said the source adding: “The security stamp numbers of the two certificates are the same, 1044788, yet these two documents were issued on different days.”
This week 24 elephants and 10 lions were exported to China from Hwange National Park.
According to sources, the elephants and lions were caged for days before being loaded into haulage trucks destined for Harare International Airport.
“I can confirm that 27 elephants have been loaded into a cargo plane which took off on flight EK714 at 6.40pm on Sunday,” said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.
“What we know right now is that the elephants are destined for Chimelong Safari Park in China where there is an order for close to 200 elephants,” he said.
Other sources claimed the Zimbabwe government is using proceeds from elephant exports to pay a debt owed to an Italian shoe manufacturer based in Marondera, Song Lee, who supplies military boots to the uniformed forces.
Zimbabwe’s uniformed forces have since 2013 failed to settle a debt of close to US$4 million to Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather, a company which manufactures combat boots.
Sources at the factory early this year told this newspaper that the company was on the verge of collapse following non-payment of boots delivered to the uniformed services since 2013.
“There is barter trade between Lee Song and the government of Zimbabwe, but it seems a scandal is unfolding because she (Lee) is getting more than she is owed,” said a source. “Last week, the American Global Tourism Organisation approached the Zimbabwean government to buy elephants and also pour some funds into Hwange National Park, but the offer was turned down in favour of the Chinese deal.”
Former Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the sale of elephants was above board.
“I am not sure about the so-called fake certificates, but the sale of elephants is above board and being done properly,” he said.