Fresh land invasions at the Chiredzi River Conservancy are threatening the elephant community there, with illegal settlers killing the animals and destroying their habitat. About 70 elephants call the Conservancy home, but an influx of land invaders in recent months has seen the animals' territory being taken over. According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), the land invaders are cutting down trees, poaching and "destroying the already damaged environment." The group said in a statement that the elephant herd is also becoming increasingly traumatized, because they are constantly being harassed and chased. "The animals are extremely stressed and some young calves are missing. One elephant has a new snare embedded in its flesh and two months ago, two young elephants in the area were decapitated, one being a lactating cow," the ZCTF said. Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the ZCTF, told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that the elephants could all be wiped out if the situation is not dealt with urgently. He explained that if the elephants continue to be threatened "they will lash out and then be declared problem animals. And in Zimbabwe, problem animals are killed." He also explained that the people who have moved into the elephants' territory have already abandoned land "they were either given or which they took," under the land grab campaign." The invaders have destroyed the areas they were given in the first place, by burning and over grazing and they are now turning their attention to the areas occupied by the wildlife," Rodrigues explained, adding that the conservancy land is not suitable for agriculture at all. Rodrigues said that environment Minister Francis Nhema has been approached to help protect the elephants, but when asked if the animals could be relocated to a safer area, "he was adamant that they must stay in the Chiredzi River Conservancy." Nhema also stated that the settlers were there illegally, but Rodrigues said that "no attempt is being made to relocate the settlers." "The Zimbabwean wildlife has already taken such a beating since the onset of the land reform programme and it is imperative that we try and preserve the remaining animals. The destruction taking place in the Chiredzi River Conservancy is so pointless and unnecessary," Rodrigues said. The ZCTF chairman also called on the public to write to the Zimbabwean government to try and pressure it into taking action."We want to try and get as many people as possible from around the world to write and protest what is happening. We need a serious outcry for this to stop," Rodrigues said.