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Thursday 25 January 2007

Statement on the wild elephant capture by Shearwater

Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA)
As our only concern is the welfare of animals and the enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, ZNSPCA has patiently remained silent in the midst of a barrage of defamatory press releases, whilst at the same time having received letters from Atherstone & Cook, on instruction from Shearwater, threatening to bring charges of malicious prosecution against the Society.

In response to reports of possible cruelty taking place during the capture of 12 wild elephants in Hwange Game Reserve, which was witnessed by visitors to the park, ZNSPCA initiated an investigation.

On 11 January 2007 on a follow-up visit to Victoria Falls to check on the reported improved conditions for the elephants, the ZNSPCA Inspectors were denied access to the elephants. A charge of obstruction has been laid against Shearwater.

In order to be fair and reasonable and in order to give Shearwater time to improve conditions and the opportunity to allow ZNSPCA Inspectors to check on the alleged improved condition of the elephant, although Inspectors are not required to have such permission, we have waited 7 days in order for permission to be granted and have withheld making any statements to the press in this regard at the behest of Shearwater. It is therefore most regrettable that permission has not been granted.

We have heard that there have been apparent improvements in the condition of the elephant and the boma, but our Inspectors are unable to ascertain if this is true.
This is the first instance where our Inspectors have ever been denied access to premises housing wildlife in captivity. It is the duty of SPCA Inspectors to ensure the welfare of any wild animal in captivity.

In addition, Shearwater refers to a report by two veterinarians that was CONFIDENTIAL and not for release to the media. Regrettably Shearwater has breached that confidence and has been selective in quoting from the report.

Many remarks contained in that report clearly indicate that in our opinion cruelty was taking place at the time of report.

Our Inspectors will continue to conduct their duties in this regard without fear or favour, in spite of being subjected to verbal abuse and insults, having their every move monitored and all other efforts to discredit their motives which have been appearing in the media.

Monday 8 January 2007

Victoria Falls 'at risk', UN warns

Victoria Falls, one of the world's greatest natural wonders, may cease to be a World Heritage Site as a result of the chaos in Zimbabwe.
Known locally as Mosi oa Tunya, or "the smoke that thunders", the falls are more than a mile wide and 420ft high. They have been a tourist hotspot since 1905, but Unesco is now considering listing the site as "endangered" because of mismanagement that has allowed the once prosperous resort to deteriorate.
Furthermore, over-zealous Zambian developers are proposing to build 500 chalets in a national park overlooking the falls, prompting warnings that the plan could lead Unesco to remove the site'sWorld Heritage status immediately.
Control of the Victoria Falls, named by the explorer David Livingstone in 1855, is at the centre of a turf war between two government bodies - the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management - both fighting over rights to manage one of the country's last remaining sources of valuable tourist revenue as hyperinflation touches 1,100 per cent.
The Zambezi river, which plunges over the falls, forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Most Western tourists used to stay on the Zimbabwean side, attracted by top-class facilities such as the Victoria Falls and Elephant Hills hotels, but the surrounding decay, and safety fears after the often violent land seizures initiated by President Robert Mugabe, have seen tourist revenues plunge by more than 70 per cent to $98m (£51m) last year from $340m in 1999, before land reforms started.
Unesco is also alarmed by Zambia's efforts to benefit from Zimbabwe's disarray. In a reversal of the traditional position, most foreign visitors now approach the falls from the Zambian side, even though the view is less spectacular. The tourism industry in Zambia is booming, with the number of overseas arrivals doubling between 2003 and 2005, bringing the country much-needed income, and new hotels are springing up near the Zambian town of Livingstone.