Panners invade rhino sanctuary

KWEKWE Zimbabwes largest black rhino sanctuary, the Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy, faces imminent collapse following an invasion by illegal gold panners.

Addressing a black rhino fund-raising dinner organised by Zimbabwe Cricket franchise Midwest Rhinos in Kwekwe on Saturday, Irish Ambassador to Zimbabwe Garrick Killilea said illegal gold panners had encroached into the endangered species sanctuary in pursuit of the precious mineral.

We are under serious pressure and threat from poaching, illegal mining which has left a trail of environmental degradation, and tree cutting from communities looking for firewood, he said.

Killileas remarks came hot on the heels of Mines minister Obert Mpofus call to government to legalise gold panning activities.

The 6 500-hectare Midlands Black Rhino Conservancy, which over the past four years has not lost a single rhino to poachers, is bankrolled by well-wishers from Ireland. Killilea called on the local business community to assist in funding the conservancys operations.

We need to pay our monitors a decent salary which will allow their children to go to better schools to get better education and for that we need to raise $5 000 every month for these running costs, he said.

We have other capital projects which need to be funded and that needs a lot of money and for that, we look to big cooperates like Zimplats and Essar Africa Holdings to come in.

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