A suspected poacher from Zambia was last week gunned down by game rangers near the resort town of Victoria Falls while his two accomplices escaped following a heavy exchange of gunfire.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened at Shumba Spring near Matetsi but said investigations into the incident were still underway.

“The body is still at Victoria Falls hospital mortuary,” said police Deputy Officer Commanding Victoria Falls Dominic Sibanda.

“We cannot give much detail now to the public because the matter is very sensitive; some stakeholders seem to be involved so we are thoroughly working on it.”

However, a conservation group, Bhejane Anti-Poaching Trust, said Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) rangers ambushed the suspected poachers after a tip-off from the local community.

“The (gun) shots were reported early yesterday (Friday) morning and Zimparks immediately reacted, deploying patrol sticks (rangers) in the area,” the trust said.

“Two more shots were heard, and a stick (ranger) going to investigate found a dead elephant still with the tusks.”

Bhejani Trust said the rangers laid an ambush and the poachers appeared after some time.

“They showed great presence by going to ambush, and three Zambians  showed up and in the process of exchanging firearms, one gunner was killed but the other two escaped,” the trust said.

“Recovered was the body, a 375 rifle, 13 rounds of ammunition and two Zambian cell phones.

“It appears this is a hit and run type tactic now used by the Zambians, where they come in small groups, shoot an elephant, out the ivory and head straight to the (Zambezi) river.

“The two cell phones will give invaluable information and will have all their contacts in them, though Zambian authorities will as usual do nothing.”

Meanwhile, the two bodies of suspected Zambian poachers found floating on the Zambezi River on Valentine’s Day and retrieved by Zimbabwean police few days ago after they escaped an ambush are still in Bulawayo after their relatives failed to produce relevant documents.

“We are still waiting for them but they haven’t showed up since Thursday,” Sibanda said.

“We hope they are going to come soon. Their bodies are still with us because we could not release them without proof.”

The duo was part of a suspected syndicate whose members escaped after exchanging gun fire with police in the Jambezi area on February 6.

Their bodies were spotted by fishermen floating on the Zambezi River.

They were naked, had their eyes plucked out and the other one had both legs missing which to police was a sign that they were eaten by crocodiles.

Police could not reveal their names and age as they were still waiting for documents from their Lusaka relatives.

This article was written by Judith Sibanda and originally published by RadioVop Zimbabwe