WILDLIFE — probably Africa’s richest Godly endowment after minerals, and a tourism draw card especially with the continent’s elephant herd — has for many, many years reeled under the threat of decimation, even extinction, by poachers thanks to a lucrative illegal trade in ivory in China and elsewhere in Eastern Asia.
However, international wildlife experts say China’s recent decision to clamp down on illegal ivory trade has raised hope that at long last the jumbos that grace many a national park in Africa and to the joy of foreign tourists, bringing in much needed forex, may now be on the brink of a long lease of life from the poachers’ high powered weapons of destruction.
The obvious result of the clamp down on illegal ivory markets is a rich harvest of tourist revenue from the continent’s national herd estimated at between 400 000 and 450 000 animals but with as many thousands of the jumbos being poached annually by foreigners working with paid local syndicates that have also been blamed for poisoning the elephants at watering points in the Hwange National Park, for instance, among other losses Zimbabwe has suffered.
But any hope for the survival of the jumbos kindled by China’s move against illegal trade in ivory can for the moment be best described as only a ray of hope for two specific reasons, one of which is that regional illegal ivory markets continue to thrive in Asia, appetising poachers and ivory dealers on the African continent to continue on the rampage against their natural, national resource, regardless of the impoverishment such acts cause to their nations overall in the final analysis.
Secondly and because illegal ivory trading continues to thrive elsewhere, international wildlife experts point to the continuing existence of what they term illegal ivory markets in countries that include Angola, Nigeria, Egypt, the Sudan, et al.
The experts also point to the recent murder in Kenya of a man who had relentlessly been working against the illegal trafficking of ivory from Africa to markets outside the continent and with the United States of America also being linked to some of the illicit ivory trade.
The smugglers may now be celebrating the removal of a bottleneck in the illegal trade but African countries should not lower their guard but must instead continue the fight against poachers with every possible means to save the jumbos that have so far survived the slaughter.
The wildlife experts’ concerns appear to suggest that regional organisations such as Sadc in our region and others elsewhere on the continent and especially the African Union as the continental body might wish to move at speed and put pressure on national governments where the illegal ivory trade continues to thrive to deal ruthlessly with the criminals or else risk being considered complicit in the decimation of the continent’s priceless wildlife endowment from God.
A carrot-and-stick approach to the problem of illegal ivory trading will appear to this pen to have a chance of moving mountains in the case in point. This will obviously preserve their own as well as the continent’s elephant population for the benefit of Africa’s future generation.
In fact, a continental Command Wildlife programme might do wonders in preserving any endangered animal species in Africa especially if the policing of national parks is also intensified to shut any loophole for poachers to access the game, and with tight controls at both airports and seaports to ensure that no contraband is blued out of the continent to hungry markets abroad.
National governments must surely regard themselves as custodians of their country’s diverse wildlife resources for future generations; otherwise governments that pander to evil desires, or corruption, as do poachers and other illegal dealers in resources that ought to benefit the whole nation are not fit to remain in power or access it in the first place.
Tourism, as anyone must be aware, is the goose that lays the golden egg for any country so that nations that nurture lucrative tourist destinations reap handsomely for their economies to grow and remain buoyant.
In this regard, it is probably time that the gurus of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry came up with new ideas to provide the foreign tourists with new, attractive spots to visit and carry back to their native countries rich memories of what Zimbabwe was before colonialism and what it is like today.
This brings to this pen’s memories commendable initiatives by some Zimbabweans in Harare to give the foreign visitor a true picture of what this country was before independence juxtaposed with what the country’s modern tourism face looks like.
Mbare is being turned through township tours into a mirror as it were of what that suburb in the capital city, Harare was like long, long before this country’s independence in 1980.
Established in 1907, Mbare was the oldest township housing African migrant workers from Nyasaland or present day Malawi; Northern Rhodesia (Zambia); and those from the Mozambique, known then as Portuguese East Africa.
As such, Mbare became a melting pot of the cultures of the various African people settled in the suburb and township tours now being conducted to that suburb expose to the visitor a rich cultural heritage of the people living in Mbare and of the various trades conducted in the suburb’s environs with Mbare musika as the hub of the economy of the residents there as well as of others benefiting from the trade in various commodities at that market.
Africa Unity Square in the heart of the Harare Central Business District is another historical place for the foreign tourists not to miss. For it was in that unique spot in Zimbabwe’s capital with Jacaranda trees in full bloom in summer where the colonial Union Jack flag fluttered for the foreign visitor’s attention, before uhuru came to Zimbabwe in 1980.
But rather tragically, or so this pen thinks, the township of Makokoba in Bulawayo, reportedly established in 1894, and obviously rich in its own cultural heritage is not as yet being spotlighted to the foreign tourist as Mbare in the capital is.
Yet Bulawayo is touted by everyone as the City of Kings and Queens.
Many Zimbabweans who work and live permanently in Bulawayo have not even an inkling of where exactly and how King Mzilikazi or King Lobengula lived during their times.
A foreigner, lured to Bulawayo by its alluring City of Kings and Queens title to see the kind of residential structure where the King and Queen lived – where do such people go?
But, of course, the Kings and Queens of Bulawayo did not live in trees. But where is the model of the King’s residence to be found in the City of Kings and Queens today just as one visiting London, England will not wish to return home before a visit to Buckingham Palace or without gazing from a distance at the residence of England ‘s Kings and Queen?
What obviously happens today is that foreign tourists entering the country from the south will desire to visit the Matopos and probably stop in the city of Bulawayo for a cool drink or a beer to quench their thirst before proceeding to Hwange National Park or to the Victoria Falls or flying back to their native countries after that. Or vice versa, tourists headed to the south will shoot through Bulawayo headed to the Matopos without spending much time in the townships or suburbs where most Zimbabweans live today because there is no tourist attraction for such visitors.
But this pen is convinced that guided visits by tourists to Makokoba township and to places where the Kings and Queens lived in their heydays, even though no structure of their residencies has been preserved, cannot fail to be a hit with foreigners.
Ideally, however, had original houses occupied by the kings and their queens or their models been preserved as museums in the suburbs of Mzilikazi and the Lobengula’s along with the types of beds the royal families slept in or reed mats used and chairs or stools as well as decorative and other household utensils used – the townships would no doubt be magnetic tourist attractions with more money and jobs created for the many jobless young people some of whom resort to unorthodox means to earn a living.
Or is it too late to re-invent the old African past to give foreign visitors a feel of what our people were like before their traditional ways of existence were watered down, but not completely washed away by the Western values of foreign occupation of the motherland.
There is no doubt that township tours of Mzilikazi named after King Mzilikazi and the Lobengula suburb named after King Lobengula – who did not vanish into thin air but fled into present day Zambia where he died a royal refugee in the area of Chief Mpezeni, a Nguni, in the eastern province of present day Zambia – will be an added fillip to Zimbabwe’s tourism industry especially if similar township tours to Mutare and Masvingo, formerly known as Fort Victoria with the Great Zimbabwe as a major feature there, are added to our country’s national tourism programme.