OF ANIMALS- ZIMBABWE LAND INVASIONS
land locked country in southern Africa, Zimbabwe is about
three times the size of England.
was by far the most important economic activity in the country,
with responsible landowners doing everything they could to
protect Zimbabwe¹s rich heritage of wildlife.
this was to change as in 2000, a wave of land invasions washed
over the country. Farmers were forced off their land, often
overnight, losing everything they possessed. Thousands of
farm workers and their families were subsequently displaced
and lost their homes and livelihoods.
of animals were abandoned, maimed or killedthey were
hacked, slashed, burnt, caught in snares, starved or beaten
to death. No species avoided this horror - domestic pets,
livestock and wildlife, all became the "innocent victims"
of Zimbabwe¹s land invasions. Uninvolved, and uncomprehending,
these innocents of a man made situation often bore the brunt
of the viciousness of the politically inspired lawlessness.
On one farm alone, the commercial farmer¹s staff picked
up 1,452 snares, another farmer reported that some of his
ostrich had had their legs chopped off and were left fluttering
on the ground.
evening, I sat & watched TV footage of a farmer's dog
being repeatedly beaten and stoned by a gang of farm invadersI
realized immediately that The Zimbabwe National Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) of which I was
the Chief Inspector, must have a role to play in rescuing
and protecting the animals on the occupied farms. Little did
I realize that we would be involved for the next five years.
the whole, domestic animals were reasonably easy to rescue,
usually the situation on the farms would be very hostile,
but we were in uniform, in a marked vehicle, told the invaders
that rescuing the animals was our only agendaand if
we were lucky, were escorted by one or two members of the
Police or Army. However, in many instances they were too nervous
to accompany us & we had to go it alone!
rescue of wildlife was much more complicated for uswe
had neither the knowledge, equipment, or funding to undertake
these rescues. To dart wild animals one has to have a licenseunderstandably,
vets were reluctant to go onto farms where they would be seen
to be siding with the commercial farmer and therefore could
be in danger. So it was left to ZNSPCA to do the best we could!
Vermont Farm in the Karoi area, we had a problem with two
hand-reared lions - Ben & Storm - that the new "owner"
wanted removedtheir real owner, a well-known farmer
in the area, who had already been evicted, wanted to delay
this for as long as possible as Storm was heavily pregnant
(He had had Ben neutered, but not soon enough!). He also needed
time to find another suitable home for his beloved lions -
not easy with so many farmers loosing their farmswhole
situation not helped by the fact that the Police kept arresting
him "for having dangerous animals". To move them
required a Movement Permit from the National Parks Deptthat
took weeks, with me contacting their offices every day!
days before the move was planned, Storm gave birth to two
tiny cubs, sadly with all the stress of being separated from
her beloved owner, she rejected her cubs. One died a few hours
later, the other was taken to experts in this field &
he is now a handsome teenager! Assisted by a friend in the
wildlife department who darted the two lions, we accompanied
them to their new home where they have settled welltheir
owners have never been allowed to return to their farm.
became involved in the rescue of hippos, sable, duiker, kudu,
snakes etc - in many cases we were unsuccessful as the invaders
claimed that all the wildlife on the farms they had occupied
were now owned by them, in some cases farmers went to court
over it, but with most of the judges in Mugabe's pocket, they
lost their claims.
is estimated that 60% of Zimbabwe's wildlife on commercial
farms has been killed, slaughtered or snared. We suggested
to Government that there should be a total ban on hunting
for a year, or until it is established just how much wildlife
is leftour request was ignored. Instead, hunting of
Zimbabwe¹s wildlife has increased and become a big money
earner for Mugabe's cash-strapped governmentwith permits
being issued to some very unsavory characters, in areas that
have previously been protected. The official quota for hunting
leopards is still 500 a yearthis, when no official survey
has ever been carried out on just how many leopards Zimbabwe
worked with a small team of dedicated black Inspectors who
were brilliant, and I believe that the obvious success of
the thousands of animal rescues that we carried out, was due
to the fact that we were totally non-political - the welfare
of the animals being our only agenda.