Not very, as it turns out. As this article notes, The Zimbabwe embassy in Stockholm reports that 13% of its territory is reserved as parks and wildlife estates. But the article goes on to chronicle a list of growing threats to Zimbabwe wildlife:
mining concessions are proliferating in national parks
Zimbabwe’s food supply and drought problems encourage small wild game subsistence hunting
this reduces prey available for top predators leading to increased human/predator interactions
foreign nationals involved with mining and other industries may be contributing to elephant and rhino poaching
Zimbabwe is undergoing deforestation. In some cases road building for mines provides increased opportunity for firewood collection which is proliferating as a subsistence industry. Road building also increases poaching access.
No, that last statement is incorrect. The park/reserve system is doing the job of separating day to day wildlife-human interaction. Wildlife wandering in villages or trampling through farms or agricultural crops is a poor mix. And in my first paragraph I ignored parks that are too successful at protecting elephants. Think of Kruger National Park and of Chobe where there are now so many elephants that park integrity is threatened by the damage elephants do to vegetation. I have read that in parts of Zimbabwe, elephants die as their food supply is now too distant from watering holes. So the problem is not the parks and reserves, the problem is with adequate enforcement of protective measures, and yes the problem is that sometimes wildlife management of expanding populations may also be required. For additional thoughts, views and information about poaching, I refer you to 2 blog posts by Rory Young, “What would effectively stop elephant poaching in Africa?“, and “How do you deal with animal poachers?” [WARNING – graphic images not for children].
The Washington Post has published an excellent article on the different measures and equipment being used to combat rhino poaching in South Africa, but also noting that poachers are also learning and that the number of rhinos poached has increased again this year. Click here to read the article. Smart phones, drones, predictive mathematical modelling, negative advertising, dyes and nausea inducing chemicals is all in part of it. Even legalization of trade is an alternative under consideration. Even so, as cvheerden has pointed out, this week’s news reported the “Last rhinos in Mozambique killed by poachers” including Mozambique game rangers in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which is the park shared with South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kruger Park is South Africa’s portion of the Transfrontier Park. Further information about Mozambique and Limpopo Park poaching is available here.
There is a meeting this week in Bangkok Thailand of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) with 2000 delegates from 178 countries. South Africa is hosting and participating in 3 side events which will focus on rhinos. Click here for more information. Because of criminal syndicate involvement, South Africa is characterizing the present poaching situation as a national security risk. Will 2000 people attending a conference actually accomplish anything to protect rhinos, or are they there because they always wanted to see Bangkok?
A report released this month states that the global illegal ivory trade is now 3 times larger than it was in 1998. It indicates the involvement of criminal networks operating with impunity to collect and transfer the ivory from east African nations, and that the main destination is China. This report contrasts with our experience in Hluhluwe, Kruger and Chobe Parks where protected elephants are now so numerous that they are destroying vegetation faster than it can rejuvenate, threatening the parks’ function and biodiversity. In Zimbabwe, elephant consumption and destruction of trees and shrubs in some locations has progressed to the point where elephants are starving – where water holes are now too distant from the food supplies. To be sure, once ivory supplies in east and central Africa decline, organized poaching networks will not just call it a day and go home – they will move south. For more information, here is the United Nations Environment Program news release. More on this – African forest elephants decline by 62% in 10 years reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the CITES conference in Bangkok. This is not attributed to habitat reduction. Instead, forestry has provided road networks which improve access for poachers.