Following on from my first report, we were then approached by Parks to assist in confirming what they thought had taken place in the Park Area, regards the elephant poisoning, the previous flights being concentrated mainly in the Forestry areas adjacent to the park, with these areas being done at Forestry’s request. Once again Pat Cox didn’t hesitate to offer his aircraft and expertise to take on the 2nd survey of the area this time concentrating on as much of the Park area as we could.
At our initial briefing with Parks it was very clear that reports emulating from various sources about the number of elephants lost were of great concern to them and we were requested to fly an assess as accurately as possible exactly how many carcasses were evident. The first flight covered the Central South and South West areas of the Park boarding the Tsholotsho communal land and Botswana border. This is an extremely remote area of the Park, access by road is not easy, and there is very little development, and as a result of this and with limited resources Parks have been unable to police this area as they would have liked, and they acknowledge this. The result being that 84 carcasses were located in this area.
The following surveys moved northwards into the central area, flying the Park east to west and then further north covering the Sinamatella, and Robin’s area. There were no further carcasses located in these areas. However we still have a fairly large section of Park to check, namely the Main Camp, and Ngamo sector in the east of the Park, and in the west the Dandari, Shakwankie, Shapi, and the remainder of the Dizivanni sector, and on his return to Harare Pat was immediately contacted by the Minister Savoiur Kasukuwere who requested we return as soon as possible to check these areas so ensuring that the entire Park has been covered, and this is scheduled to take place shortly.
Although we haven’t covered the whole Park as yet, we have covered the areas considered by National Parks to be the priority areas and the most sensitive in aspect of the poaching problem. This obviously doesn’t mean that there may not be any other problems areas but hopefully far less probable. So based on the areas that we have flown and surveyed we are confident that there have not been any more than 120 elephant lost, and this compares favourably with what Parks have reported, and while this is serious we feel the figures quoted by other sources are totally incorrect and exaggerated.
Hopefully I have been able to convey briefly to you what’s been going on, I personally feel the situation is now looking a lot better but we must not lose sight of the fact, vigilance in the future is of paramount importance we are dealing with evil sinister people who must be made accountable at all costs, if there is to be any long term future for our wildlife. We have been very impressed with the very open and refreshing attitude received from Parks and the Minister; it has been a pleasure operating with them and is confident that, we can overcome the current problems. It should be noted that the Minister has also set up an advisory trust of respected and well known conservationist businessmen to help and advice in Hwange, with the results already been seen with 5 of 8 new Landrovers designated for Hwange having arrived last Saturday.
Statistics regarding areas covered and distances flown to date: FORESTRY (area covered 2,965 km2, Distance flown 2,187km); HWANGE NATIONAL PARK (Area covered 7,230km2 approximately 49.22% of the Park, distance flown 3,027km, total hours flown including flying time to and from Harare 35.2 hours). Total cost of aircraft sponsored at these hours US$8,615.00 (Our thanks once again to Pat Cox and Ericom Communications for their outstanding support. Without this support none of this would have been possible). I hope you find this report of interest and will keep you informed of any future surveys and developments.
Author: Colin Gillies, Matabeleland Branch, Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe