Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (MAPP)

Lake Kariba, Matusadona

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The Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (MAPP) is a joint initiative with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), conservation organisations and tour operators, aimed at protecting fish and wildlife resources in and around the Matusadona National Park.

The Project's objective is to provide logistical support to ZPWMA in their efforts to contain illegal poaching activities.

Illegal fishing activities are posing a real threat to the continued existence of healthy and diverse fish populations on the Zimbabwean side of Lake Kariba. The gravity of the situation is best demonstrated by the fact that the Zambian waters to the north are devoid of fish, and the once popular Sanyati Gorge is no longer the chosen destination of "sports fisherman".  The Zambians have netted their waters unabated and have literally destroyed their fish populations, to the extent that they now brave rough and unpredictable waters in the dark of night and conduct poaching forays into Zimbabwean waters.   MAPP intelligence has learned that anything up to 5 boats per night enter the defined area. Armed with several kilometers of twine fishing nets they set out to achieve their target of one ton of fish per boat per week, a target that they regularly achieve. That fish is sold in Zambia at US$2.50 per kg, a healthy sum, and certainly enough incentive to perpetuate these forays for as long as there are fish to catch. All sizes and species of fish are targeted.

The Sanyati gorge has long been the favoured spawning ground for tiger fish and was once the most reputable destination for the sporting anglers. Local fish poachers established semi-permanent camps within the gorge itself and for several years now they have relentlessly and recklessly netted the gorge, their nets often spanning the entire gorge.
Several fishing co-operatives are licensed to operate within defined waters in Lake Kariba and the construction of their nets is clearly defined in law. However, they often stretch these boundaries in terms of where they operate and what materials they use for nets.

This network of fish poachers provides transport, food and INTELLIGENCE to the more sinister land based poaching operations.

Both black rhinoceros and elephant populations within the Matusadona National Park have suffered badly in the past decade through illegal killing for horn and ivory, to the extent that there are now very few rhinoceros left in the Park.  MAPP is now working with other organisations within the Park to extended its anti-poaching and intelligence-gathering focus to cover land-based wildlife killing as well as the depletion of fish resources.

MAPP commenced operations in March of 2013, and has been successful in detaining and confiscating numerous Zambian fishing boats, arresting their occupants and taking them to be tried at the Kariba courts.  Some have received 12 month jail terms. Regular patrols are conducted into the Sanyati Gorge where illegal fishing nets are confiscated, boats sunk, and temporary camps destroyed.

Camera traps have been placed at strategic locations throughout the Park and are providiing useful records of animal and human activity which can inform the anti-poaching teams. 

All such activities are conducted professionally and in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe. With the assistance of MAPP, The ZPWMA has been able to regulate the activities of the Kapenta rigs and fishing cooperatives and some suspected ivory poachers have also been arrested as a result of inland operations.

MAPP is on the road to achieving its objective but continuity is the key to success.  MAPP must demonstrate that this is not a "one off".  Any lapse in performance will open the door to renewed illegal activities. Longevity is crucial, and this can only be achieved with assistance in cash or kind, however big or small.

Related articles:-

MAPP 2018 - Report on activities, achievements and challenges (Jan 2019)


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