Three Zambian poachers jailed in Zimbabwe for possession of ivory: Two accomplices were gunned down.

-The accused persons are said to have fired two shots at game rangers and an exchange of gunfire ensued, leading to the death of two of the poachers

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Three poachers from Zambia, who were nabbed on Tuesday in Katombola, near the Kazungula border post in Matabeleland North Province, have been jailed for an effective nine years each for poaching, the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has reported.

The Victoria Falls Magistrate Court also found the trio, Liston Muchelo (22), Alex Kakoma (22), and Martin Silishebo (36), guilty of illegal possession of ivory and illegal entry into Zimbabwe.

The accused persons are said to have fired two shots at game rangers, and an exchange of gunfire ensued, leading to the deaths of two of the poachers, identified as Morris Muchelo and Nickson.

One member of the group is said to have escaped, but these three were then arrested, leading to the recovery of 15 elephant tusks weighing 128.82 kilogrammes, firearms, and six live rounds of ammunition.

While in court, it was revealed that on March 19, this year, the group of poachers entered Zimbabwe from Botswana through a bushy, unregulated entry point near the Kazungula border post.

They intended to cross to Zambia, it was revealed, but while in Zimbabwe the accused persons proceeded to the Magumbeze area, where they were arrested.

Reports of poachers of Zambian nationality getting arrested are not new, as in 2011, at least 31 were arrested for various offences, including illegal fishing on the Zimbabwean side along the Zambezi River in the Hwange District.

In December 2020, two Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers were overpowered and drowned by four Zambian men they had arrested for poaching.

The two park rangers were allegedly thrown into Lake Kariba by the suspects as they were waiting to transport them by boat to Kariba town to be charged and jailed.

The rangers had caught the poachers in Matusadona National Park.

In October 2020, two Zambians were arrested after being found with weapons and a dead animal at Nyika National Parkin Rumphi, Malawi.

The two, identified as Steven Kaonga and Petros Mweso, both from Muyombe in Zambia, were found with illegal weapons that were used to poach animals.

They were taken to Rumphi police for several charges, including illegal entry into the protected area without a permit, illegal entry into Malawi, illegal hunting, illegal killing of wild animals (common duiker), and transferring weapons without a permit.

On December 6, 2023, seven Zambians were apprehended in the Kapani area in Namibia, with 18 tusks and in possession of a 375-calibre firearm.

The 18 tusks had been poached in Botswana, bringing the total number recovered within that period to 59.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, ZimParks recently reported a 30% decrease in poaching incidents and a 50% reduction in armed confrontations between poachers and rangers.

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