By Talent Gore and Blessing Malinganiza
Government has received a major boost in efforts to curb poaching, with a South African company donating modern drones worth more than $150 000.
The drones, donated by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Drone Solutions (UDS) (Pvt) Ltd, would be used for surveillance in the country’s national parks.
Speaking at the handover ceremony in Harare, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the forging of partnerships with private companies emanated from the need to protect the country’s vast resources.
“I am excited that Zimbabwe is taking the right step in piloting the use of drones to protect her natural resources,” she said.
“The dream to integrate drone systems in our law enforcement strategies has been made possible through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between my ministry and UDS Private Limited.”
She said wildlife resources were a national heritage that needs to be guarded jealously.
“Success in their upkeep depends on contributions from other players and that these new technologies do not work in isolation hence we appealed for the involvement from other stakeholders in supporting teams or starting similar projects,” Minister Muchinguri said.
Poachers have in the last two years killed dozens of elephants in Hwange National Park by lacing watering holes with cyanide, a toxic substance that kills within hours. Hwange holds two thirds of Zimbabwe’s 80,000 elephants.
Cephas Mudenda, a board member of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) told a committee of parliament that the agency had bought two drones, as well as sniffer dogs from South Africa.
The parks authority is struggling with lack of funding and plans to gradually increase the number of game wardens. Mudenda said ZPWMA had about 2,000 employees, instead of 3,200.
Tourism contributes 11 percent to Zimbabwe’s $14 billion economy, according to Ministry of Tourism data, with the country’s wildlife parks popular with overseas visitors.