RECENT reports of a massive haul of illicit ivory in Harare have exposed the level to which the responsible wildlife management authority has sunk. The authority no longer has any capacity within its ranks to effectively manage our wildli
From the responses given by the authority’s director-general, it appears that they speculate that the ivory might have come from the Zambezi Valley; they are not definite. If the authority cannot be precise of the source of the ivory that has been discovered, then it can also not be sure of the extent of poaching in the various wildlife areas.
While they say that Zimbabwe has an overpopulation of elephants, they are oblivious to the fact that Zimbabwe’s wildlife population is characterised by heavy poaching and mismanagement, and that overpopulation of the past no longer exists. In the recent past there has been rampant poaching and overhunting that has been going on unnoticed. On its part, the authority since its inception has never undertaken any operation to enhance viability of wildlife populations.
Such a state, which is conducive to decimation of wildlife, was bound to occur given that the authority does not have any professional wildlife managers and conservationists among its ranks. Wildlife areas are not being managed and field staff are not being remunerated while on the other hand, the authority has been overloaded with well-paid “chefs” who do not know anything about wildlife management.
Managerial and clerical staff who play no role in protection take 75% of the authority’s wage bill, while a paltry 25% is spent on law-enforcement personnel. Obviously, such a structure does not augur well for wildlife protection and management, hence the reported ivory hauls are just the tip of the iceberg.
Further investigations and unbiased resource surveys will reveal that there are no longer any viable wild animals in our parks estate. Lions have disappeared. Only trees and grass remain.
It’s high time that the responsible ministry ensures that those who have the responsibility of managing our wildlife resources are wildlife managers. We cannot let wildlife go to the dogs, while at the same time pinning our hopes on a revival of the tourism sector on the same decaying wildlife industry.
It’s time we heed the president’s call to put performers into our key economic industries. The authority should be restructured and rid of all the excess chaff that is draining salaries so that proper and well-trained human resources are recruited for wildlife management.
The demise of the wildlife will render all efforts to revive the tourism sector futile.