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Environmentalists Hail Jailing of 3 Elephant Poachers

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Environmentalists are hailing the sentencing of three poachers caught in the industrial cyanide poisoning case that has left 81 elephants dead.

Environmentalists said the provincial magistrate, who Wednesday sentenced Diyane Tshuma to 16 years in prison and his co-accused Robert Maphosa, and Thabani Zondo to 15 years, made the proper move in delivering justice and hoped it would deter others from following suit.

The three, who targeted Hwange National Park watering holes and salty grounds the animals feed on, were ordered to pay between US$200,000 and 600,000 to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks authority for killing the animals.

The poachers were among nine people arrested on suspicion of poisoning watering holes in the game park.

The poisoning is now also affecting carnivores like jackals, hyenas, lions and birds such as vultures and others feeding on the poisoned elephant carcasses.

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association executive director Mutuso Dhliwayo said though he hailed the tough sentencing, much more needs be done to deal with the poaching menace in aligning laws and familiarizing people with the consequences of such actions.

“The Environmental Management Act works despite its short comings, in terms of the penalties that are not in our opinion deterrent enough.”

He said having laws is one move, but implementing and enforcing them is another.

At the same time, Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman, Johnny Rodrigues, called the sentencing too lenient, calling for stringent laws providing deterrent and stiffer penalties for perpetrators.

Rodrigues said this must be taken further to target buyers and so-called “big fish” who are running elephant tusks smuggling syndicates.

VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke with Johnny Rodrigues and Mutuso Dhliwayo, who both stressed the importance of government intervention in Zimbabwe’s wildlife and parks.

Elephant's tusks are highly sought after for Asia's ivory trade. There are more than 120,000 elephants in Zimbabwe's national parks.