Human management

African countries urged to strengthen collaborations in wildlife management

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube & Robin Muchetu in Hwange

THE African Elephant Summit kicked off yesterday amid calls for African countries to have a common understanding and speak with one voice on issues affecting the continent.

Countries with elephants on their land, known as range states, are meeting in Hwange for an inaugural African Elephant Summit, which aims to deliberate on wildlife conservation, especially elephant management, human and wildlife conflicts.

The aim is to reach a common position before the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to be held in November in Panama.

Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda, Mauritius, Lesotho, Madagascar, as well as Uganda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia , Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Seychelles are participating in the four-day conference.

The meeting started yesterday with the engagement of technical experts and will end with a meeting of ministers with the official opening ceremony on Thursday.

While globally the elephant population appears to be declining, there is overpopulation in most African countries, including Zimbabwe, and this has led to an escalation in human-wildlife conflict where people lose crops, lives and property to elephants who also destroy infrastructure.

The challenges are common to all range states and sustainable conservation strategies, which involve the slaughter and trade of animal products, are needed and yet western countries oppose them through the CITES.

The summit is strategically hosted at Hwange National Park so that participants have first-hand experience of the presence of wildlife, as opposed to decisions made by those who have never traveled to affected communities to witness animal conflict. and humans.

Zimbabwe, which rests on 136 tonnes of ivory, is using the summit to lobby for the sale of wildlife products and already has support from other countries including Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania.

Countries are also burdened with the security and high costs of stockpiling, which they are unable to sell due to the trade ban.

The need to include the voices of communities affected by human-wildlife conflict at CITES meetings was topical as participants expressed concern about their exclusion when they are the ones affected. .

Participants said the listing of African elephants on Appendix 1 is influenced by voices from non-range states.

The Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Dr Fulton Mangwanya, has implored African states to make a common voice and avoid discord as they travel to COP 19 in CITES.

“We were supposed to find a position so that when we go to CITES we don’t have the discord that usually happens,” he said.

“Everything that comes out of this meeting will definitely help us when we go to Panama.

We really need to find out why we have these differing views and try to argue when we come to these international meetings.

“The issues of non-state actors need to be addressed because you can’t say communities aren’t allowed to go and attend CITES when NGOs go there,” Dr Mangwanya said.

He said Africa should strengthen collaboration towards science-based decisions, adding that elephants should be a unifying force in the region.

Director of Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Dr Kabelo Senyatso, said there was a need for the region to coordinate the fight against poaching, cutting off cross-border movement of wildlife products and conflicts between man and wildlife.

“Elephants have increased tourism opportunities, but on the negative side they are damaging crops, water infrastructure while people are losing lives due to attacks,” he said.

“The purpose of this meeting is to see that each country knows what the other is thinking and we need as Africans to celebrate our similarities more than our differences because the areas where we differ are minor compared to those where we we share common threats because of the risks we face.

“It will be pointless for one state to allow trade in a particular product and its neighbor to prohibit trade in that same product.

This will make it easier for criminals and haters to penetrate, so we need a common position,” Dr Senyatso said.

Botswana is home to between 230,000 and 260,000 elephants, the largest herd in the world, and like many southern African countries, the jumbos stray into human settlements, causing conflict with people.

Mr. Kenneth Uiseb, Director General of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Dr. Ernest Mjingo, Director of National Parks and Wildlife in Zambia, Mrs. Lusizi Mwale said that their countries supported the idea of ​​trade in the products wildlife as they face a myriad of challenges including human-wildlife conflict, destruction of property, death of people,

The US-based Conservation Force’s Director of Government and Communal Relations, Mr. Marco Pani, commended African governments for their efforts to promote conservation and people’s livelihoods.

Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu

Earlier in his welcoming address read on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Munesu Munodawafa, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu called on African countries to create a greater collaboration in wildlife management.

“Zimbabwe, as a signatory to CITES, agrees with the principle that trade in endangered species should be regulated. CITES should be helpful in allowing trade that will impact elephant conservation,” he said.

“This is of concern to us because trade is not the danger to elephants but the loss of habitat and conflict with humans. Governments in elephant range states are facing social and political pressures on why elephants take priority over their own lives and livelihoods,” said Minister Ndlovu.

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