CITES chief arrives in Zimbabwe
CITIES chief Willem Wijnstekers
HARARE – CITES secretary general Willem Wijnstekers (pictured) has arrived in Zimbabwe on four-day working visit which will see him meeting Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa over rampant poaching decimating wildlife in the southern African country and said to involve top politicians and army officials.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) chief who jetted into Harare late Monday will also meet Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Environment Minister Francis Nhema and other senior government officials.
According to the official programme, Wijnstekers will meet the PM on Thursday.Wijnstekers will discuss with Mnangagwa the alleged involvement of senior military officers in poaching while he seeks to establish from Chinamasa security measures put in place to curb illegal killing of protected wildlife and measures taken against those caught poaching including the levels of sentencing.
“Zimbabwe welcomes the visit by the CITES secretary general as it affords an opportunity to interact with political leadership thus ensuring long term sustainable wildlife management policies,” department of National Parks and Wildlife Management said in statement.
The CITES boss is accompanied by John Sellar, chief enforcement officer responsible for providing technical advice and support in relation to the enforcement of the Convention, said the statement.
“He monitors illegal trade in wildlife and liaises with law enforcement agencies at the national, regional and international levels, particularly Interpol and the World Customs Organisation. He also coordinates work by CITES Enforcement Task Forces and the CITES Enforcement Expert group.”
After his arrival Wijnstekers proceeded on a private visit to the largely white-owned Save Conservancy that has suffered poaching while some parts of the reserve have been invaded by supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party.
Zimbabwean officials last week expressed displeasure that the CITES chief would tour the top private game conservancy during his visit to the country, saying he would be only told that which suits whites interests and the government will not be able to defend itself.
The visit comes after a report in December by TRAFFIC, IUCN and three other wildlife organisations said Zimbabwe and South Africa have the highest incidences of poaching on the continent.
Wijnstekers is the current CITES secretary general and he supervises the global implementation of CITES and its strategic vision. He is also responsible for policy formulation and direction within the secretariat.
Poaching has been rife in Zimbabwe since landless black villagers began invading – with tacit approval from the government – white-owned farms and game conservancies over the past nine years.
Some of the country’s biggest state-owned nature and game conservancies including Gonarezhou National Park that forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier straddling across Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa have large parts occupied by villagers.
In many cases farm invaders poach animals for meat and cut down trees for sale as firewood mostly to people living in urban areas.
But there has also been an upsurge in the poaching of endangered species such as the rhino targeted for its horn that is exported mainly to China and Vietnam where it is in huge demand. International syndicates working with local gangs are said to be behind rhino poaching.
There have also been reports of illegal and uncontrolled trophy hunting on former white-owned conservancies now controlled by powerful government officials and ZANU PF politicians.
The government however denies politicians are illegally hunting game and insists it still has poaching under control. – ZimOnline