Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
KAVANGO-ZAMBEZI Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) countries have resolved to adopt a scientific wildlife management system in national parks, a development which will enable the bloc to harvest or move wildlife without hindrance.
The decision was made at the close of the Joint Management Committee and Committee of Senior Officials meeting in Victoria Falls yesterday.
It comes on the backdrop of a ban on hunting of specific animals such as elephants and sale of ivory, which the KAZA-TFCA bloc feels is unfair.
The KAZA-TFCA has arguably the biggest wildlife population especially for elephants in Africa but cannot cull or freely move them because of restrictions imposed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
This has escalated human-wildlife conflict thereby causing death of humans and illegal hunting as communities feel they are not benefiting from the natural resources.
KAZA-TFCA member states namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe wanted a common position on the matter ahead of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) next month in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
They feel scientific management of wildlife will minimise human-wildlife conflict as communities will start benefiting.
The position will be ratified by Heads of State at the KAZA-TFCA Heads of State Elephant Summit set for May 7 in Kasane, Botswana.
The KAZA Bloc resuscitated the Ministerial Committee after the return of Botswana that had not been cooperating with the other four countries in the last few years.
Botswana, which has the largest population of elephants in KAZA with 150 000 jumbos, prepared the position paper and the other four member states adopted it as a KAZA statement.
“We note with concern debate and criticism on elephant population. KAZA-TFCA is a conservation and development partnership of the five governments and the key objective is to join fragmented wildlife heritage into interconnected areas and wildlife corridors with free movement of wildlife.
“It’s imperative that any programme that promotes conservation must sustain livelihoods of rural communities. We therefore call upon critics on elephant management to stop and allow the Republic of Botswana and KAZA-TFCA in general to implement policies and programmes on elephant management in a systematic management to improve species management and community livelihoods.
“We further call upon the critics to provide support to sound elephant management practices in particular problems such as human wildlife conflict,” read the statement by Botswana.
Botswana Minister of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, assumed KAZA chairmanship for the next two years.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira who co-chaired the meeting with her Botswana counterpart said while Botswana prepared the statement, it should be adopted as a KAZA position.
“As Zimbabwe we also support the statement and scientific management of wildlife. We think that we should support KAZA as a grouping and that statement should be a KAZA statement because we all believe in the same. What we have all said makes it a KAZA statement so that it’s not looked at as a Botswana position,” she said.
Zambia Tourism and Arts Minister Charles Banda said scientific management of animals is the only remedy to human-wildlife conflict.
“I want to believe that the critics have disadvantaged us the people who own this wildlife by way of curtailing us from the use of the same natural resources. We’ve been told that we should not hunt elephants or sell ivory but if you look at what is happening today elephant numbers are growing exponentially causing a threat to human population.
“The only way out is to adopt systematic and scientific control of these ever-growing numbers for purposes of reducing on human wildlife conflict and also raising finances for conservation and developing the livelihoods of the people that live within and around areas where these animals live,” he said.
Namibia Minister of Environment and Tourism Bernadette Maria Jagger said scientific management is one of the best approaches to manage thousands of elephants and for communities to benefit.
“Wildlife should contribute to wildlife management hence as Namibia we fully support new policies and programmes of elephant population management of Botswana to minimise human wildlife conflict. People should be allowed to go into trophy hunting and sell locally and internationally and as KAZA we should support one another when we go out,” she said.
The meeting started on Monday and ended yesterday. — @ncubeleon