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Cablegate: Poaching of Wildlife Is Rampant in Zimbabwe

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001221

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/S, AF/EX, HR/OE
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 JDIEMOND
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
RIO FOR WWEISSMAN
PRETORIA FOR AG ATTACHE
PASS USTR - ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND C WILKINSON
INTERIOR FOR FWS, FWS-A1A

E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR SENV ZI
SUBJECT: POACHING OF WILDLIFE IS RAMPANT IN ZIMBABWE


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.
NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.

1. (SBU) Summary: The poaching of wild game, by both
commercial and subsistence hunters, has now reached
crisis proportions in Zimbabwe. Game is being
illegally taken from occupied private reserves and
conservancies, national parks, and occupied farms that
may or may not border protected game areas. The
hunting and wild game industry claims that US $40
million of game has been poached from private reserves
since the land invasions started in 2000 (based on lost
international hunting revenue). Snaring is endemic on
occupied properties including commercial farms and game
preserves, and national park boundaries are no longer
respected by rural dwellers, be it for grazing,
firewood collection or wildlife harvesting. Also
associated with the poaching is widespread destruction
of habitat, mainly deforestation, but also riparian
damage caused by illegal gold panning and unmanaged
poor farming practices. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Organized commercial poaching has gotten so
bad in the Zambezi Valley that the Minister of
Environment and Tourism recently announced the dispatch
of a 200-man task force of soldiers, police and
National Parks game scouts and guides to help control
the stock loss. One contact at National Parks told
Econoff that between 6 and 10 elephants were being
killed monthly in the Kariba/Zambezi Valley park
system. The situation was degenerating fast, he told
us, and he and his colleagues had pointed out to their
superiors the threat the rampant poaching poised to
Zimbabwe's obligations under the CITES convention and
also the Trans-Boundary Park and Conservation
agreements recently signed by Zimbabwe. It was only
these factors that got action, because in many cases
the local powers-that-be share in the spoils of the
organized hunting groups.

3. (SBU) The commercial poachers, who are armed and
often utilize packs of dogs, target elephants and
rhinos for their trophies, and all other plains game
for their meat. The informal or subsistence poachers
target anything that moves, and use wire snares to
capture or disable their prey. A number of factors lie
behind this increased activity, and principal among
them are: the general decline in respect for law and
order engendered by GOZ-sanctioned activity against
opposition supporters in the pre- and post-election
period; the widespread invasion and occupation of
commercial farms and game reserves or conservancies
(and the associated notion that anything on the
properties is, so to speak, fair game); declining
incomes; and growing food insecurity.

4. (SBU) The conservancy and hunting industry tells us
that it has lost game worth more than US $40 million
since the farm and property invasions began in 2000.
Some conservancies have lost 60 percent of their
animals. The Parks Service is unable to quantify its
losses, and up until recently it was denying that a
problem even existed. Ruling party officials and
provincial authorities have been witnessed on numerous
occasions by commercial farmers and professional
hunters leading weekend sweeps in public and private
game parks, and on farms occupied by indigenous
settlers. A weekly independent newspaper recently
published details of a letter from a rural district
council chairman to the local police officer-in-charge,
seeking police transport, personnel and weapons to
shoot a dozen large plains game animals on listed and
unlisted farms to feed ZANU-PF youth militia at four
training camps located in the district. Similar
behavior, but less well documented, occurs daily we are
told.

5. (SBU) The head of the Save Conservancy, one of the
world's largest private game sanctuaries (3,400 sq.
km), recently stated that game loss and habitat
destruction from settlers on designated portions of the
reserve has "reached the point where we have to
reconsider the future and viability of the whole
project. Since August 2001 we have documented a total
of 718 animals killed, including 6 wild dogs (of a
total of 110), one black rhino, five elephant, 68
eland, 312 impala, 175 kudu, a leopard, 27 zebra and 52
warthogs and other smaller game." The undocumented
loss could easily be much larger than this count, as
large occupied areas of the conservancy have been no-go
areas for more than 18 months. At another conservancy
in the same region, an anti-poaching patrol came across
a poachers' camp two weeks and "we caught five guys
with 34 dead warthog, and a whole bunch of sable,
antelope, bush pigs and dassies (the hyrax, a badger
relative). They'd been there for 4 days and some of
the meat was already going off, but they were still
hunting. The warthogs alone had a trophy value of US
$100-200 each."

6. (SBU) Comment: Poaching has undeniably ramped up
steeply in the last year, and the head of the Wildlife
Association told Econoff that he believes that at least
20 percent of the national total herd has been taken in
the last two years. The owners of two butcher shops
that sell to the residents of high-density townships in
the small towns of Bindura and Marondera related that
over the last six months 20 to 40 percent of their meat
sales have been game, which is clearly being hunted
aggressively to supplement incomes and food needs. As
is the case with commercial agriculture, no one in
government seems particularly concerned that a national
asset is being stolen and destroyed with great
rapidity, contributing to Zimbabwe's slide to a
distopia. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

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