Published: Sunday 15 October 2000

-- Poachers are using widespread farm invasion as a pretext to kill Zimbabwe's rarest animal species, wildlife reserve officials and environmentalist stated.

"The invasion of hundreds of farms and ranches and inaction on the part of the police have lead to an increase in poaching," said Graham Connear, who runs a conservancy in the Save Valley of southeastern Zimbabwe. The Save Conservancy comprises a number of privately owned ranches and farms, which can also be described as one of the world's largest private wildlife preserves, in addition to the state-run parks. Threatened black rhinos were brought there in a bid to preserve and boost the species' number. Veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war have invaded at least 1,600 farms in a bid to speed up a government programme that seeks to seize white-owned farms for resettlement of the black community. "We cannot fight poaching because of the present lawlessness and violence on the farms," said Diane Chembo, a member of the Wildlife Society of Zimbabwe.

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