Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu has bemoaned the exclusion of local communities in environment conservation efforts, saying they are the missing link in fighting wildlife crimes.
Speaking on the last day of the African Elephant Conference on Thursday, Ndlovu said community participation would help governments to address many challenges they face in preserving the environment.
“We cannot afford to continue discussing conservation at the exclusion of communities as though the two can be separated,” he said.
“We need to find ways of ensuring our communities play a central role in managing wildlife within their localities.
“I am convinced that community participation will allow us to address several other challenges, such as illegal wildlife trade, land use change, and human and wildlife conflict which is evident.”
Ndlovu said African countries must find ways of harmonising their approaches to wildlife conservation and exchange notes on best practices.
The conference held at the Hwange National Park between May 23 to 25 was organised to help African countries to come up with a common position on the global ban on the ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Zimbabwe and other southern African countries with large elephant herds want to be allowed to sell their ivory stockpiles to fund conservation efforts.
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On the other hand countries such as Kenya and Tanzania say any resumption of ivory trade would worsen the poaching of African elephants, which are already facing extinction.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, which has Africa’s second largest population of elephants, say they have to be allowed to sell their ivory stockpiles to manage their growing herds and increasing human-wildlife conflicts.
CITES banned ivory trade in 1998 to protect the elephants.
Ndlovu said lack of scientific data on wildlife management was making it difficult for African countries to make their case on why the ivory trade ban must be lifted.
“We will need to work together as a region to find ways of addressing this,” he said.
“We will not be able to come up with a convincing solution if we’re not sure of the data we are using.
“Our scientific and management authorities are, therefore, encouraged to come together and find ways of addressing this challenge.
“The key question is, how do we navigate the current restrictions to come up with what is there to preserve the value of our wildlife, improve livelihoods and develop our nations?
“It’s not an easy task, but it’s doable.”
The minister added: “The questions are then how to create value out of our wildlife and its products, which include stockpiles, to have opportunities in the financial markets, blended financing mechanisms similar to those in the climate change arena.”
First lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who was the guest of honour at the conference, lamented lack of unity among African countries on the ivory trade ban.
“This gathering comes at a critical time when Africa and indeed the whole world is preparing for the CITES COP 19 to be held in Panama in November of this year,” Mnangagwa said.
“Africa will join the rest of the world in advocating for regional and international conservation practices that promote effective, efficient and sustainable protection and utilisation of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
“We believe in sustainable utilisation and sustainable wildlife trade for the benefit of wildlife, communities and the Africa at large.
“I am, however, saddened by lack of unity we have shown as Africa at various international for a, especially the Conference of Parties to the CITES.’ -VicFallsLive