HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe plans to deploy aerial drones in its biggest wildlife sanctuary in the west to combat poaching of elephants, a parks official said on Monday, as the country aims to protect one of its top tourist attractions.
Tourism contributes 11 percent to Zimbabwe’s $14 billion economy, according to Ministry of Tourism data, with the country’s wildlife parks popular with overseas visitors.
Poachers have in the last two years killed dozens of elephants in Hwange National Park by lacing watering holes with cyanide, a toxic substance that kills within hours. Hwange holds two thirds of Zimbabwe’s 80,000 elephants.
Cephas Mudenda, a board member of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) told a committee of parliament that the agency had bought two drones, as well as sniffer dogs from South Africa.
The parks authority is struggling with lack of funding and plans to gradually increase the number of game wardens. Mudenda said ZPWMA had about 2,000 employees, instead of 3,200.