HARARE, April 15- Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water and Climate Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, has expressed concern at the failure of the courts to jail the person who is alleged to have masterminded the poisoning of more than 100 elephants by cyanide in the Hwange National Park last year.

A number of the poachers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 13 to 15 years over the poisoning and Kasukuwere said here Monday: “We see some of the criminals who were involved and arrested are leaving the courts scot-free. I believe there are some underhand activities.

“You cannot have the mastermind of this cyanide poisoning walking scot-free but all those who were sent by him are in prison. I would like to call upon those who have been charged with the responsibility to ensure that justice is served on the perpetrator.”

Kasukuwere said wildlife is a resource which needs to be protected. “’It is the very wildlife which when conserved and protected will ultimately see the growth of tourism in the country contributing significantly to the economic growth of the country,” he added.

He urged all Zimbabweans to fill the funding gap left by donor countries which stopped providing aid to Zimbabwe. “Zimbabweans are therefore challenged to have an appreciation of conservation needs and contribute towards the protection and management of our wildlife heritage,” he said.

Following the cynide poisoning of elephants, the government established the Wildlife Ecological Support Trust to raise 10 million US dollars to fight poaching at the Hwange National Park.

Wildlife Ecological Trust (WET) Chairperson Phibion Gwatidzo told the same press conference that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority was operatig with a budget deficit of 8.0 million USD annually, compromising its ability to protect and manage the wildlife heritage.

“We are aware that the National Parks has an operating budget deficit of 8.0 million USD a year and we want to work with them to help them close that gap by providing management expertise and by making sure we can help in the funding process,” he said.

“Going forward we want to lobby the government for funding to the National Parks. We are convinced the National Parks cannot operate efficiently without some form of fiscal support especially funds directed for research and anti-poaching activities.”

The WET has so far raised 1.741 million in cash, field equipment and vehicles for use by rangers in Hwange National Park to curb poaching.