Midlands’ tourist attraction under threat

BY WILLIAM MILASI

One of Midland’s tourist attractions the Midlands Black Rhinos Conservancy (MBRC) is under serious threat, a situation which will negatively impact on the country’s economy.

Tourism is expected to contribute 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

A plethora of reasons are threatening the existence of the conservancy in general and the Black Rhino crush in particular.

Chief amongst the negative reasons are poaching, encroachment into the conservancy by mining activities and newly resettled farmers.

MBRC Conservator David Strydom contends that the country’s weak legislation especially that which deals with poaching has seen the country losing out on the much needed revenue.

He pointed out that the country could immensely benefit from the sector considering the strategic position of the conservancy which is at the heart of the country.

“We work with the National Parks of Zimbabwe, they are the custodians. We assist in the protection and looking after in the maintenance of the rhino,” Strydom said of the self funded conservancy which is home not only to rhino but leopards, Sable, eland and Impala amongst other animals.

“The conversancy has one of the biggest populations of plains game in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Strydom who has been with the conservancy for over a decade has said the 63 000 hectare conservancy is being terribly and drastically depleted.

Some of the portions of land which have been accommodating game at the conservancy have been parceled out to small scale farmers under the resettlement program at the turn of the millennium.

Strydom however, feels the parceled land is restrictive of the free roaming of game especially that of rhino.

“This is mainly because the land has been resettled which have seen plot owners coming in. The 12 farms which constitute the conservancy have all been divided up. That breaking down is restrictive to the rhino,” he said

The new farmers’ livestock, the conservator said is taking up grazing area for the rhino.

“The rhino habitat is being depleted by the people coming. We don’t have don’t have a problem with people who come into the area.

“We were told when they came that they will assist us that they will insist in increasing the population of game. However, the land is now facing depletion,” he said.

Currently there are seven rhinos at MBRC.

Turning to the problem of poaching Strydom said the scourge has affected other animals within the conservancy but not the rhino.

He attributed the reason of none poaching of rhino for the over three years to close monitoring mechanisms which MBRC has put in place.

“We have haven’t had rhino poaching for over three years. This conversancy for two years in a row won the best rhino conservator in Southern Africa. With our work with rhino this is something has not even been achieved in South Africa. The way we protect works for us. We don’t relax our guard for any day. The reason being we have the best crushes of rhino the black rhino which is critically endangered species,” he said.

He however painted a gloomy picture for the other game within the conservancy which he said is being lost to poaching.

“Poaching has increased terribly. We are losing animals every single day. We have guys coming in outside for the skin, shooting animals for meat,” he said.

He feels more needs to be done to curb the problem of poaching especially in the area of legislation.

“We feel the law is nor being applied in our favour but in favour of the poachers which is very frustrating. Many a times we have seen poachers being let of the hook simply because the courts will say they was lack of evidence,” he said.

“A sable bull realize $12 000 and $15 000 if sold on the proper market price. The poachers are however selling the meat for as little as $200 a situation which has seen the country losing out on revenue,” he said.

He called for stiffer penalty on poachers.

Strydom said mining is also one of the biggest problems which have placed the conservancy under threat.

MBRC is close to African Chrome Fields (ACF) a chrome mining company.

“There is seriuos depletion of the environment which has been caused by mining activities at the mines (ACF).

“We don’t have anything against miners but we feel there is need for environmental stewardship on their part. They must take responsibility and rehabilitate the land which they destroy during their operations.

“There is destruction and devastation of underground water systems, all the dams are silted up,” he said.

Six years ago where they used to be vegetation since the emergence of mining there hasn’t been any life.

The situation has negatively impacted on game at the conservancy.

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