Rhinos across Africa have been taking a hammering over the last few years with 1,215 poached in 2014. Although poaching figures are still high with 1,175 reported cases, 2015 has seen the first decline in poaching since levels began to rapidly escalate in 2007 (Figures courtesy of WESSA).
The Greater Lebombo Conservancy project coordinated by IAPF has had success in apprehending poachers in Mozambique before they enter the Kruger National Park in South Africa. We have put over $70,000 into this project and are very pleased to hear they are having an impact in the field.
Although not as greater extent to South Africa, rhinos in Zimbabwe have been especially hard hit during the course of 2015. However we have also heard about some major successes convicting poachers from Bryce Clemence who coordinates the rhino anti poaching team in Save Valley Conservancy.
Please read his account below
Just a brief up date on the unfolding of recent events. Full detailed reports will follow but for now we appreciate your patience in baring with us. We have been totally occupied in the field with the recent upsurge in poaching activity.
2015 has been a very difficult year for us and for the rhino in the Low-veld. This is primarily because previous rhino poaching syndicates that were disrupted had reformed and came back with the vengeance. However through intelligence that we’ve been working on since our contact in 2012 and dedication from the men in the field we were able to achieve two excellent results that make 2015 a monumental year.
Both successes started of with good intelligence and ended with good field operations. The first was the recovery of a silence 303 rifle and the arrest of seven accused. This weapon had been delivered to the area by a South African syndicate who were hoping to retrieve rhino horn, leopard and lion parts. We were able to intercept and arrest this group before any damage was done. The case is currently going through the court process and we will up date on the full outcome.
The second case was our best win to date. We were able to make contact with the most notorious rhino poaching group in the country. This is the group that has done most of the damage in the conservancy over recent years. We had good intelligence that they were in the area and were able to pick up their spoor deep within the conservancy. The group was compromised of four poachers. One was shot dead on the spot, another badly wounded and two were able to escape. An AK47 rifle and a 7mm mouser rifle fitted with a silencer and scope were recovered at the scene. The wounded was a Zambian (Jason Chisango) who was operating the AK47. He was taken to hospital and later gave information which assisted us to follow up with the police and capture a middle man (Mudenge Munashe Mugwira) who was a serving member of the CIO. He was the one selling the horns through Harare. He had also supplied the AK47 and ammunition as well as transported the group on many poaching missions using his state vehicle. Mugwira has been remanded in custody pending trial.
Through good intelligence and excellent police cooperation we were also able to arrest (Tavengwa Machona Mazhongwe) who was the main mastermind in the field. He has a long standing history with rhino poaching and is responsible for a huge amount of damage country wide. Two of his brothers (Big Sam) and (Chomunorwa) were both killed in previous rhino poaching related incidents. The good news is that on New Year’s Eve Tavengwa was sentences to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty on three counts of rhino poaching. This is the strongest sentence issued for rhino poaching in Southern African history!
Both the Zambian and the CIO man are likely to receive similar sentences as they have been implicated and have implicated each other in the same poaching cases for 2015. This was a very exceptional way to end off the year and go into 2016 and will no doubt have a very positive effect on conservation in the low-veld. By no means is the war on poaching in our area over, it just means that we have a very positive win to build on and we need to take our unit to the next level. The amount of silencers and sophisticated weaponry that is appearing shows that these syndicates are becoming smarter and more organized. The fact that the low-veld has the main population of rhino in the country means that we will be the main target for poaching into the future.
We would like to thank the Tikki Hywood Trust for their tireless work with the judiciary. They have been a key aspect in the success of this case. We are also grateful to the police and national parks for their amazing support and team work.
Most importantly we would like to thank the kind donors for their support and for believing in us through the hard times. Without your support this positive success could not have been achieved. We look forward to working with you into the future and will keep you updated along the way.
Some photo’s of the recent success attached.
Wishing you all the best for 2016!
Save Valley Conservancy