Following AWI's article in the Winter 2001 issue, "Animals Caught in Zimbabwe's Anarchical Land Grab," we received a letter from Karen Paolillo of the Turgwe Hippo Trust, Save Valley Conservancy, in Zimbabwe. An excerpt of her tellingly heartrending and personal letter appears below.
...three weeks ago my husband and I were patrolling upstream of our home checking that all was safe for the hippos who are under our care. We find a freshly dead female kudu (an antelope) hanging from a snare. A snare is a wire noose attached to a tree which, when the animal goes to browse a leaf, finds its neck caught, pulls back and the noose tightens until the animal either breaks the attached wire and has a lingering death as the remaining noose chokes its life away, or dies like in the case of this female attached to the wire hanging from its struggle to be free. We walk around the area, we find a further 20 snares, with three more dead animals, two kudus and one impala, these animals had been dead for at least two weeks, no poacher had bothered to recover his spoil!
Then I see movement, to the right of the dead female a shape appears hidden in the grass. A live kudu female baby about seven weeks of age. She was nervous, like any wild animal, where was her mum, (hanging from a tree) what could she do? For four days I tried to gain her trust. On the fifth day she disappeared. Three weeks later I went back into the area and there she was. She has survived; she is thin, very thin but alive and still lively enough to run away from the human enemy.
In the meantime the owner of that piece of land sent his game scouts back to check for further snares; they found 131! Poachers now work in groups of up to 30 men. They scour an area working singularly laying their snares, or shooting with their bows and arrows at any bird or animal they see.... They remove the meat as a group and make a lot of money selling it to the highest bidder.
...These days the poaching is big business. The poachers say they are the bosses, they are the masters, they listen to nobody....The police are on the side of lawlessness in that if a scout tries to protect himself against a poacher, it is the scout who ends up in the jail, not the poacher!
I see around me animals daily being killed and there does not appear to be any sunshine at the end of this extremely long and dark tunnel. For us that work for love, the deaths of all of these animals, not for food but for greed and money brings so much pain. Please spare a moment of your time and think about that baby kudu and please try and help this Country to return to the peaceful land it was but a short while ago.
If you wish to become a foster parent or obtain more information please contact: Karen Paolillo, Turgwe, Hippo Trust, Hippo Haven, PO Box 322, Chiredzi, Zimbabwe, phone: 263- (0) 24-456 or email at email@example.com.
Above: A snared female kudu, one of the beautiful African antelopes and one of the many species of wildlife cruelly caught in the land-grab in Zimbabwe.
Right: 18 month old Flood on the left and 6 month old Nelly Storm on the right-two hippos rescued and residing at the Turgwe Hippo Trust, which was created after severe droughts in 1991 and 1992. (Karen Paolillo)