Illegal wildlife trafficking in Zimbabwe has become a multi-billion dollar industry involving millions of animals that are sold as souvenirs, trophies, and for “medical” products every year.
There is only one thing more ridiculous than an African despot; the exaggerated respect accorded him by white bien pensants.
Given the farce of political correctness, Robert Mugabe is (still) given a platform at the UN and people (still) pretend to take him seriously.
He is the perpetrator of some of the worst human rights abuses on the continent since the zenith of Idi Amin.
Currently, Zimbabwe is one of the poorest and most politically corrupt nations in the world ranking 163rd out of 176 countries on the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.
No one has used Zimbabwean dollars since 2009 and the Zim dollar officially does not exist anymore.
Still, as the incomparable Peter Godwin writes in his book “The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe”, “Mugabe peddles his imperial musings…geriatric maundering, garnished with non sequiturs, the brain-shavings of the dictatorial dotage.”
Mugabe’s appearance at the UN was satire overtaking reality.
Under his notorious 5th Brigade – trained by North Korea – some 20,000 Matabele were slaughtered.
Tom Burgis writes about the “African development miracle.” For the resource states, it’s a mirage. The wildlife, ivory trade, the lion bones, the oil, the copper, diamonds, gold and coltan deposits attract a global network of traders, bankers, corporate extractors and hunters.
These exploiters twin with venal political cabals with the sole purpose of looting the states’ value.
In the wake of fitful attempts at wildlife conservation in China, the Chinese are now turning their acquisitive eyes to to Zimbabwe. Since the millennium, the presence of China in Africa has grown exponentially every year. The demand for ivory, rhino horn, lion bones and hippo’s teeth is insatiable.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, if rhino poaching increases at a steady rate African rhinos will be extinct within a decade. Poachers receive about $5,000 for a single horn.
The Chinese erroneously believe that Rhino horn (made of keratin, the same material in our fingernails and hair) is a powerful aphrodisiac.
A rhino horn can fetch about $60,000 a kilo (2.2 pounds).
Perhaps ancient Chinese philosophies and religions such as Taoism and Buddhism viewed animals as worthy of respect, but during the Mao era care for animals was denounced as western and bourgeois and this view persists.
Mugabe and his corrupt ministers and Chinese chums see animals as resources to be exploited for their commercial value.
“One of the biggest threats to our wildlife is the export of wild animals out of Zimbabwe parks to theme parks in China,” a ranger told me. The same source refers to documented evidence of monkeys being killed and being used as bush meat to feed Chinese officials. Animals are routinely beheaded for trophies.
Forests of teak, mahogany and mopani are cut down and exported.
Recently, the first African woman dictator-in-waiting, Grace Mugabe, sent a menagerie of safari animals to a Chinese wildlife park.
The 51-year-old wife of the Zimbabwean tyrant is believed to have sent 35 elephant calves, eight lions, a dozen hyenas and a giraffe to “settle a debt” for boots and uniforms bought for the Congolese military.
There are fears that the elephants could be used to start an ivory-farming operation in China. They were illegally captured at the Hwange National Park and flown out of the country in a Russian-registered Boeing 747 belonging to AirBridge Cargo.
The plane stopped in Moscow en route to Shanghai and the animals were finally released at the Chimelong safari park in Guangzhou.
All the animals were shipped with faux “approvals” (you can buy a ‘permit’ for anything if you have the money) and without any scientific oversight or guarantees for their future care or safety.
A wildlife expert in Zimbabwe said that the forced separation of the young elephants from their herds was “a mad act of cruelty”.
Animals are more than just complex organic machines
The cultural view that animals are automatons, not suffering pain or fear in the same way as humans may have been a part of our own culture in the past, but is no longer acceptable. Rather like slavery.
Opinions have moved on, with the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness in 2012 establishing a line in the sand, as an international group of eminent scientists declared their belief that animals are indeed conscious and aware.
Animals have similar emotional and sensual awareness as humans. Our only defining feature is our larger fore-brain which gives us a greater ability to remember, plan, worry and rationalise.
The recent cyanide poisoning of over 400 elephants in Hwange National Park caused even Bridget Bardot to write to Robert Mugabe.
Ignoble Robert Mugabe,
This year again, you have decided to celebrate your birthday by slaughtering elephants, lions, buffalo and impala to gorge on with your guests, with total disdain for any sort of ethics.
Far from being the exception, your country is a centre for this traffic of death. The sad record of recent years shows that your country has been exposed to the highest number of elephants poisoned by cyanide by poachers; 300 mammals have died atrocious deaths after having drunk contaminated water.
Instead of being indignant and tackling poaching, you have the gall to organise a menu of slaughtered endangered animals in the name of a lavish and excessive ‘party’ given in your honour.
This kind of behaviour is very harmful for the image of your country already in tatters by the scandal of 34 baby elephants, recently snatched from their mothers and sold like vulgar merchandise to China and Thailand.
This unpardonable crime is synonymous with the disappearance of a whole future generation of pachyderms in Zimbabwe.
Your abject and scandalous “parties” are toxic for the fauna of your country, but also for your economy.. How can you dare to spend 40 million dollars for a birthday party when your co-citizens have less than two dollars a day to live on?
I consider you to be bloodthirsty and cruel dictator. Shame on you!
Over 100,000 elephants have been killed in Africa in two years according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The cyanide poisoning is indiscriminate and often kills mothers and calves with no tusks.The impact of this poisoning have been cumulative.
Entire ecosystems have been destroyed and so many other animals have died as a result.
Elephants are highly sentient beings. They have emotions and language and remember everything that happens to them. Their social groups are highly sophisticated. Humans are not slaughtering dumb creatures.
Grace Mugabe is known for her ruthlessness. Those who thwart her fear for their lives. While on a shopping trip to Hong Kong, she assaulted a photographer, punching him repeatedly in the face while wearing diamond encrusted rings. Earlier this year in South Africa, she assaulted a 20-year-old. In both cases she was granted diplomatic immunity.
US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks there are allegations that high-ranking Zimbabwean government officials – Grace – are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers to hand-extract diamonds from the Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe.
As recently as yesterday, (October 4 2017) Mugabe’s militia reportedly assaulted villagers, burning their properties and giving them 24 hours to leave a tract of land which Grace Mugabe wants to ‘establish a game park.’ The animals will no doubt be used to sell to the highest bidder. Or pay off her debt. Or fund political campaigns.
Grace Mugabe has overseen the construction of two palaces. The first, referred to commonly as “Gracelands”, became controversial for its extravagance.
It was later sold to Gaddafi of Libya. The second was completed in 2007, costing around $36 million. “Gucci” Grace is known for her lavish lifestyle. The Daily Telegraph reported that she was “a kind of black Marie-Antoinette,” “notorious at home for her profligacy”. She thinks nothing of spending $160,000 on a spending spree in Paris, while Zimbabweans endure catastrophic poverty.
Trophy hunting is always ‘sold’ as being ‘sustainable’ hunting. This is the ‘con’ in conservation. Organizations like The Safari Club claim that by killing animals, trophy hunters are actually saving Africa’s wildlife. This is a nonsense. Sustainable hunting is as ridiculous as ‘sustainable murder’. Keep the human population down? Even the utterance would have people apoplectic. The public perception is that these activities are regulated and legal. They believe the nonsense that ‘local villagers’ benefit from the hunt. Something described as legal in an industry that is corrupt and cruel to the core means nothing. The egregious killing of Cecil – lured out of his protected area – and wounded, but only shot with a crossbow 40 hours later, was, Zimbabwean ‘authorities’ said ‘perfectly legal. A study by Economists at Large, an Australian organization of conservation-minded economists, found that on average only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting benefits local people.
The last few years have unmasked the scope and severity of the illegal wildlife trade in Africa.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, 96 elephants are killed every day for ivory. At this rate, there will be no elephants left in 20 years.
Few people have written – or even thought of – the ramifications of this illegal wildlife trade in terms of terrorism. This illegal wildlife trade also feeds into global terrorism.
Terrorist groups like the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army], al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram fund themselves through ivory and rhino horn trade. Cynanide is readily available for $50 a kilo.
It is a matter of time before Isis moves to Africa.
Most of the proceeds from killing elephants go toward killing people.
In Zimbabwe, some of those who have spoken out against corrupt government officials involved in poaching, ivory smuggling and illegal hunting are shot to death. Others have received death threats, been attacked and forced to leave the country.
Without the support of the international community, many of the wild icons of Africa will be gone forever.
Copyright Jani Allan 2017 USA