Note: This story below is reproduced from Biosphere, a South African newspaper

The full scale slaughter of game at farms and reserves is so severe that endangered species such as the Wild Dog and Cheetah have now become extinct in Zimbabwe. The national parks which used to be the pride of the country are being destroyed while pleas of help go unheeded worldwide. An investigating team reported that tons of ivory is being exported to Asia and lion to Nigeria. A ZCTF spokesperson said "it is an organised business and government officials and the police are involved." We present here a personal account of this tragedy. The authors name has been withheld to protect his/her identity.

To highlight the loss of wildlife in Zimbabwe, as things are at this time, through rampant poaching, illegal hunting and downright slaughter on a daily basis, I thought it proper to write down for the reader, who would take the time to read this article, some of my experiences on the ground. Since the land invasions started on the 10 March 2000, where wild animals were done awav with in the most horrendous and barbaric ways, all of these incidences in the course of my duty, which was to protect and care for the wild animals on our property.

Like all living things, none of us want to die, and every living species on this earth has its reasons for staying alive. God gave us humans dominion over all living things, and at the same time, because of our superiority, we were given the charge to be sensible and wise, and utilise our responsibilities properly toward them.

While patrolling along our eastern border game fence one morning, with a game scout, we could hear the distant sound of dogs barking ahead of us. It could only mean one thing, poachers. We ran as fast as we could toward the sound, and as we reached the top of a rise ahead, we could see several dogs and a lot of dust with whatever it was they were attacking caught in the fence ahead, trying to break free. Added to this we witnessed three poachers rushing in with their clubs and choppers. During this confusion and noise, they did not hear us approach and we managed to shoot two of their dogs. On hearing the shots the three poachers dropped everything and ran off into the bush, followed by the rest of their dogs. The animal, an eland cow, then broke free from the fence and headed for some mopane trees with an iron rod, sharpened on one end like a spear, pushed through her stomach behind her rib cage, protruding about 6" or so on the other side of her.

We followed and saw what looked like two balloons appear on either side of her as she ran through the trees. She had in fact pulled her stomach out onto the ground because the iron rod had caught between two trees, disembowelling her. Luckily I managed to put her down. This whole incident happened within a few minutes, and the poachers got away.

Can you imagine what pain and agony an animal goes through when shot by a poacher through her jaw, severing her tongue, and added to this, she is pregnant. She can neither eat or drink and after several days of this in the hot African bush, she is hounded by hyena until she weakens and then is set upon and killed, and then devoured by her pursuers. On another day, while hot on the tracks of two poachers, we heard the sound of something thrashing about in the bush ahead of us. Running forward we discovered a young impala ram with his left hind leg missing. I immediately had to shoot him. On examining this animal, we came to the conclusion that it had somehow been clubbed over the head rendering it unconscious. The poachers must have thought they had killed it, and because they knew they were being pursued, had hurriedly cut off its leg and run off. Needless to say, because of this incident the poachers got a head start on us and got away.

Walking behind the tracks of a big bull giraffe, on one occasion, we discovered that this animal was dragging its left hind leg. As its tracks were days old we did not expect to come across it so soon, as these animals cover great distances even in a stressed condition. We saw it ahead of us on the bank of the river where a well used game path enters the riverbed. The poor thing was caught around its neck by a heavy wire snare, tied to a well established tree to one side of the path, struggling to get free.

As the ground beneath its feet was on a slope with loose stone it was impossible for it to balance, and the wire snare was tight around its neck choking it. I had no option but to put this giraffe down. On examining its left hind leg we discovered a wire around its hock causing it to swell to four times its size. Also rendering the leg useless. A month or two later we discovered a female zebra hanging from a tree with a heavy wire snare around her throat. We can only guess that this animal in her desperate bid to free herself had somehow jumped up catching the wire onto a protruding broken off branch on the tree where it caught. As she came down again, her front legs were off the ground and she hung there till she died. How terrible it is to find so many hundreds of our wild animals dying in this cruel way.

We had, around our home, many semi-tame warthog who on occasion gave us and our guests much amusement. One female in particular by the name of "Pigera" was well known by all who visited our ranch, and over a period of five years had reared nineteen offspring. Many of these stayed close to our home. Such lovely creatures, all given names by the many children who visited the ranch. Now of course they have all been killed and eaten by those who forced us off our ranch.

Walking past a warthog hole one evening, close to our house, we discovered a warthog female wedged in the entrance of the hole, still alive, with horrific chop marks all over her face. Whoever did this to her must have been disturbed during his actions and ran off, for his bare footprints were visible.

Many of our wild animals are being slaughtered in this way and despite the many appeals for help and assistance to the outside world, these still go unheeded. To me it seems that all want to be seen to be involved, but at the same time do nothing, and as each day passes so the carnage continues to poachers and invaders. What else must we do to alert the world to what is happening today in Zimbabwe.

Let me Just tell you of the fate of a once beautiful giraffe. We monitored this animal for some time as she was pregnant and soon was to give birth to her calf. I was keen to see the birth process, so I kept a very dose watch on her movements. As it so happened this was not to be. The political situation in our area was a bit scary and we were ordered to go to town until the situation eased. On my return to the ranch, eleven days later, I went looking for this giraffe only to discover that she had been caught by a heavy wire snare and had died with her new calf half out of her body. Because of her great size and strength she had uprooted the tree to which the wire snare was tied and dragged it about a hundred metres or so where it got wedged against other trees. Here she struggled in anguish to free herself clearing the surrounding bush as she did so. How long the struggle went on for I do not know but it sickened me to think that beautiful animals such as this one died, and was left to rot in the bush then to be set upon by vultures and predators, and those that set these snares did not bother to check what had been caught, but continued putting up snares in other areas. This is what is happening right now in Zimbabwe.

The situation was very bizarre and we all believed that it was just temporary but almost 30 months down the way we are still hanging in. The impact on the conservancy on the wildlife in the area, on peoples lives will always be remembered. So our hippo unaware of the human tragedy developing continued to live in this new land of milk and honey. But in steps, man and the invaders all with different agendas and the man pressure on the landscape, cutting down of thousands of trees, fires and snaring and poaching and uncontrolled exploitation. And this lone flourishing hippo caught in this conflict was destined to be another carcass, another skeleton and so in early 2002 they who see the dollars and not the future who take for today but care not for tomorrow set about the destruction of this meat on legs and with planks with hundreds of nails, so they locate a path that the hippo frequents and one evening as the hippo moves off to graze so it steps onto this spiky abomination and in the confusion of the pain and the blood and the screams of anger, so they arrive and in the same way with dogs and spears and whatever means they have so the hippo dies an agonising death and the dollars come in and the beer flows and a symbol of the rivers recovery is now a maggot invested carcass. And because the gods they serve say to them that the head must be left because the spirits will be angry and so two months later we discover just the head. The silence is deafening as this government onslaught against the very land that nurtures them continues unabated. Please do what you can to save our Wild Animals

For those wishing to help please send an e-mail to Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force at:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See also: Zimbabwe's Killing Fields and Mugabe Tsunami in Zimbabwe

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