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Chinese foundation fights poachers in Zimbabwe

A charitable organization set up by Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe is helping protect the country’s wildlife with new equipment and technologies, including a microlight aircraft that can recognize poachers from above.
The Sino-Zimbabwe Wildlife Foundation has employed several anti-poaching equipment and is working closely with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to fight poachers in Mana Pools National Park in the northern part of the country, the foundation’s chief executive Francesco Marconati said Thursday.
He said since the establishment of the Foundation a year ago, it had managed to acquire anti-poaching equipment that include a small boat to patrol in the Zambezi River and a two-seat microlight aircraft to conduct surveillance in the 2,196-square-kilometer game reserve.
“The microlight aircraft is doing very good work. It can fly very low and is able to do surveillance in the whole game reserve,” Marconati said.
“If there is a signal of poachers on any part of the game park, the aircraft can fly there and direct the park rangers on the ground where the poachers are. It can also push away poachers from the Zambezi River,” he added.
The game park, which is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, boasts of a wide range of animals including elephants and lions, over 350 bird species and aquatic life.
The vast park is a major target of poachers from neighboring Zambia, who usually use canoes to cross the Zambezi River at night and get into the park.
Marconati said the poachers were highly organized and equipped, and required strong and well-equipped anti-poaching units to repel them. Two Chinese volunteers had been in the country for the past six months training local staff on how to fly the microlight aircraft, he said.
Working on a voluntary basis, the Foundation only offers help when asked to do so by the National Parks. The assistance it offers includes surveillance in the park and the river and lifting of carcasses.
“When doing our work, we are always accompanied by park officials to avoid misunderstandings,” he said.
To beef up its anti-poaching efforts, the Foundation recently imported from Italy a two-seat aircraft to expand the area it covers to the entire Zambezi Valley.
“The aircraft is now being fitted together after it was dismantled in Italy to make it possible to transport it. After one month, we expect the aircraft to start protecting not only Mana Pools but the whole Zambezi Valley,” he said.
A Chinese non-governmental organization, Blue Sky Rescue, had pledged to provide another bigger aircraft that can accommodate about five people as well as more boats to boost the Foundation’s anti-poaching activities, Marconati said.
Last December, the Chinese government donated anti-poaching equipment to Zimbabwe to help it curb wildlife poaching that is rampant in its game reserves.
The equipment comprised of SUVs, pickup trucks, lorries, graders, tractors, mobile radios, tents and patrol clothing for use at Mana Pools National Park and Hwange National Park, the country’s largest wildlife sanctuary that has also suffered rampant elephant poaching in recent years.
source: xinhuanet |24 september 2016
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