Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Zim wildlife pay cost of economic crisis

Yup...just ignore those kids over there, it's the poor animals that count.
Zimbabwe, once one of Africa's premier safari destinations, has suffered severe wildlife losses on private game ranches and conservancies due to forced farm seizures and the country's economic crisis.

Animal welfare group the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce (ZCT) said the farm seizures ordered by President Robert Mugabe's government in 2000 triggered an estimated 83 percent slump in wildlife on private farms and conservancies.

The drop also closely followed a dramatic decline in the number of Zimbabwe's private wildlife ranches and conservancies, which the group blamed largely on government land policy.

"We based the estimations on the fact that we believe there were 620 private game farms prior to the land invasions and according to our records, there are only 14 left today," the task force said in a statement.

"According to our records, there were 14 conservancies prior to the land reform and now, the only one left of any consequence is Save Valley Conservancy," it added.

Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa's largest game reserves but experts say several animal species such as impala, warthog, kudu and wildebeest are at risk from rampant poaching by people struggling with hunger and rising poverty and from cross-border trophy hunters.

The welfare group said it studied 62 farms, 59 of which reported wildlife losses totalling 42,236 animals including the lion, elephant, python and blue duiker that were already on the list of endangered animals.

Zimbabwe's state National Parks and Wildlife Authority says animals in its larger game reserves have not been affected by massive poaching and remain safe.

The ZCT says the story on private land is different. It chose 17 of the 62 farms that kept proper records and supplied the task force with up-to-date statistics in order to estimate the total percentage of wildlife lost on the private ranches.

It estimates that at least 15,704 animals were killed on the 17 farms between 2000 and 2007, an average of 923 animals per farm, largely to be sold as meat.

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