Did Zimbabwe wildlife rangers shoot on sight – and do we care?

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) confirmed yesterday that their rangers did shoot and kill 2 poachers in a follow-up operation while investigating the deaths of 6 elephants. The families of the 2 poachers claim that there was no need for the rangers to shoot at close range as they were not challenging the rangers.

The rangers moved in on the 3rd December while 5 men suspected of killing the elephants were sat down and eating lunch. 3 of the men managed to escape but 2 were killed in the operation.

The 2 killed were known poachers and the operation recovered 6 pairs of elephant tusks, guns, ammunition and mortar bombs from the premises.

The two killed were Andrew Mapfumo and Last Stephanie. Mapfumo had been involved in elephant poaching since 2005 and had spent time in prison for poaching.

The families of the killed poachers have made complaints to local media saying that when the wildlife rangers arrived at the scene the suspects were sat down eating lunch and were not resisting arrest. They are also complaining that the post-mortem did not indicate that the poachers were shot at close range.

Zimparks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo said at the release of the news that despite the fact that rangers are underfunded and under-resourced  that the rangers “… are more than willing and ready to bring the country’s conservation efforts back on track

She also announced that another poacher from Zambia was killed by the ranger service on Sunday during operations in Katombola, Hwange National Park.

If the actions of the rangers is a sign of a new get tough policy in Zimbabwe then it can only be welcomed.

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