Report by | The Zimbabwean |
Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives are heavily involved in poaching threatened wildlife species, according to an anti-poaching expert.
Rory Young, an ardent conservationist who is involved in training locals in anti-poaching techniques in various countries in Africa, recently fled Zimbabwe with his family for an un-disclosed destination following threats from named CIO operatives.
Young, who confirmed to The Zimbabwean that he was involved in anti-poaching training throughout Africa, said problems started when the Zimbabwean government gave him the authority to train police details and scouts in the Nyaminyami area – but certain CIO agents in Kariba did not like the idea.
“On my way to do further training of Zimbabwe Republic Police and scouts in the Nyaminyami area I received a message from a third party to report to the Office of the President in Kariba. After a full and long interrogation I was told that I was not allowed to train anyone and if I did I would be arrested,” he said.
Young informed the CIO operatives that he had been given authority by the Zimbabwe Republic Police General Headquarters and had been granted a two year residence permit to carry out the training – but they would not listen to him.
“I was told to shut up (and they said) that they were above the police and that even if I had done nothing wrong they would find a reason to arrest me and throw away the key unless I stayed away from the area and did no training in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Young attributed the resistance to his training initiative to the fact that the secret service agents were involved in poaching and trafficking of wild animals. He said the CIO officers openly boasted that they were working with two unnamed Europeans employed by some NGOs in Kariba who informed them about whatever happened in the wildlife areas, adding that they would easily know of his activities if he went ahead with his anti-poaching activities.
After his encounter with the agents, Young decided to discontinue training activities in the area. But he continued to use Zimbabwe as a base as he carried out similar activities in other countries. However, the secret service continued to make threats on his life as a way of ensuring that he did not return to the area.
“Unfortunately CIO didn’t stop there and we began to hear via third parties that they were making more threats against me, obviously to ensure I didn’t come back to the area.
“They wanted me and anyone like me far away from Matusadona and Nyaminyami. I subsequently heard that another well-known international anti-poaching organisation was told to stay away and also threatened,” added Young.
He said he went through prolonged fear every time he returned to Zimbabwe from other countries, fearing that he could be abducted. And all the while he watched helplessly while elephants were being killed in Matusadona and Nyaminyami.
Desperate for cash
“Now you know who is behind the poaching of the elephants in Northern Zimbabwe and why we left the country. Mugabe’s government is desperate for cash and this is why they are going to the extremes they are, such as tearing wild baby elephants away from their mothers and herds and sending them to China.
“What people don’t realise is that Mugabe’s l party and his secret police minions are desperate for cash too. CIO needs cash to pay its secret informers who spy on their neighbours and report any opposition. That cash has to come from somewhere and whilst the official government departments use legal but unethical means to raise funds, the political and secret security apparatus and often the army use any means they can to get it,” said Young.
“CIO and Zanu (PF) are nothing less than an organised crime syndicate. They are behind the poaching in Zimbabwe and as they become more desperate they are going to allow more of it.
Don’t be fooled
“Don’t be fooled when there is a report of Zambian poachers being shot. That is just them allowing parks or police to deal with the competition. When CIO is behind it no one does a thing. With their tentacles reaching every corner of every village they could shut down the poaching in Zimbabwe in a day,” added Young.
Wildlife activists have accused government officials, among them cabinet ministers, of colluding with dealers in the exportation of baby elephants to China and other countries under a veil of secrecy.
Saviour Kasukuwere, the environment minister, has defended the exports, saying Zimbabwe must realise revenue from the sale of the animals, even though there is no explanation of where the money is going.
A named former CIO operative, who is now a prominent politician and businessman, is reported to have made a fortune from smuggled elephant tusks from Mozambique while still serving as an operative. Sources said he connived with workmates and frequently travelled to Mozambique where he bought the tusks, using his CIO identity card to evade searches.
Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson, was not available for comment.