January 10, 2009

Soldiers In Zimbabwe Eat Elephant Meat

A wildlife campaigner has told the BBC that Zimbabwean soldiers are being given elephant meat for their rations.

Several soldiers have complained that elephant meat was the only meat they were given, according to Johnny Rodriguez of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

There are more elephants in Zimbabwe than its parks can sustainably hold and its economy is in a free fall. 

There has been no comment on the reports by the defense ministry.

Rodriguez said that the use of elephant meat began last June, but has recently increased.

An unnamed senior army officer in Harare was quoted as saying, "Soldiers started eating elephant meat last week."

The officer also said that the meat was a welcome relief, and soldiers had previously only been given sadza (maize-meal porridge) to eat.

Army contracts to supply beef to feed soldiers have been cancelled, according to Rodriguez.

"It is cheaper and easier to use elephant meat," he said.

The national parks in Zimbabwe have the capacity for 45,000 elephants and the population is culled to contain numbers.

Zimbabwe's economy is collapsing and soldiers have recently gone on the rampage in the capital, Harare, after being unable to withdraw their salaries in cash from banks.

The pay for many civil servants in Zimbabwe is barely enough for transport to and from work, so most people survive by trading on black market or on the money sent by relatives abroad.

The army plays a key role in keeping President Robert Mugabe in power.

They were accused of leading a campaign of violence against the opposition during last year's election run-off, but this was denied by defense officials.


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