Factual report on the tragic deaths of two wildlife conservation volunteers in Mana Pools National Park

Statement from  THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY 14th March 2016

Richard Maasdorp and Gary Layard of THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY today visited the scene of the tragic incident which took place in Mana Pools National Park on Sunday 13th March and resulted in the deaths of Claudio Chiarelli and his son Max Chiarelli.

The two deceased died instantly when caught in the mistaken fire of a National Parks patrol of three rangers at about 3.30p.m. yesterday afternoon - Sunday 13th March.

Claudio and Max, together with Francesco Marconati were providing voluntary support to deploy two National Parks anti-poaching patrols consisting of 6 rangers with the intention of uplifting the three rangers who were in the field following fresh spoor of poachers.

The group had parked their vehicle on the side of the road in the middle section of the Mana Pools National Park to await the arrival of the three Park rangers who had been tracking poachers in dense bush since 9.00a.m. that morning.

The intention was to meet at the road and hand over three fresh rangers to continue the follow-up.

Claudio and Max Chiarelli with Francesco Marconati took the opportunity to open the bonnet of their vehicle to inspect the engine.  Meanwhile, the 6 Park rangers they were transporting had dismounted from the vehicle and arranged themselves next to it while waiting for their three colleagues to arrive.

Unbeknown to them, the vehicle had been parked within just 15 metres of where the poachers’ tracks had crossed the road.

Meanwhile, the anti-poaching patrol in hot pursuit, heard voices, crouched down, and slowly moved forward through the thick undergrowth.

Through a gap in the bushes, they saw part of a blue shirt.  They assumed this was a poacher and let off a burst of gunfire.

Tragically, both Claudio and Max were killed instantly.

As the anti-poaching patrol rangers were crouched, they were unable to see the road at all.

Fortunately, the 6 rangers awaiting deployment did not return fire.

Richard Maasdorp, Strategic Director of The Zambezi Society stated:  “Today (Monday 14th March 2016), we witnessed a thorough on-site investigation by the Zimbabwe Police CID and members of the National Parks Investigations Branch and Senior Management.

The Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and other state organs now, more than ever, need support and resources to contain their battle against wildlife poaching.

We, the Zambezi Society, extend our very deepest sympathy to Mrs Chiarelli and her daughter and the family on this terrible tragedy.  We posthumously thank Claudio and Max Chiarelli, as a father and son combination, for the years of dedication that they have shown in support of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe.  This tragedy is deeply regretted.”

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