Editor's Comment

Suspension of wildlife movement welcome

WILDEBEESTS in the Liuwa Plains.

THE decision by Government to suspend movement of wildlife from national parks into private ranches is welcome and must be supported by all, as it will help preserve Zambia’s highly priced resource.
Minister of Tourism and Arts Ronald Chitotela, who announced the suspension yesterday also directed his Permanent Secretary, Amos Malupenga, to investigate allegations that a director in the ministry signed a wildlife movement certificate when only the minister is mandated to do so.
“No one will be allowed to capture wildlife from national parks until further notice.
“We have to ensure that wildlife is protected, and as long as I remain minister I will not sign a permit for any live capture until further notice,” he said.
We certainly agree with Mr Chitolela. Zambia’s wildlife needs to be protected against extinction if the country is to benefit from its enormous tourism and economic value.
It is a known fact that Zambia is one of the countries generously endowed with a variety of wildlife species creating great potential for tourism and economic development.
But over the years, wildlife tourism has continually come under threat. For instance, the Blue Lagoon and Lochinvar national parks in the Kafue Flats are among the many parks affected.
The animal population in this game management area has significantly reduced over the years including the Kafue lechwe, which is only found in Zambia.
According to the 2015 population survey reports by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the population of the Kafue lechwe, which is predominantly the most abundant species numerically in the park, has significantly declined to about 28,000 from over 250,000 back in the 1930s.
The current statistics suggest that approximately 1,000 Kafue lechwe are lost due to poaching every year, whereas the Blue wildebeest population is on the periphery of extinction – the entire Kafue Flats only has one wildebeest, and it’s female.
Big game such as hippopotami, buffalo, zebra and kudu also remain vulnerable to poaching, whereas, according to other latest figures, about 40 percent of large mammals that used to be found in the Lochinvar National Park have all gone extinct.
These include big cats such as lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetah and also prime big game such as eland, sable, roan antelopes, waterbuck, hartebeest, puku and warthog.
Our national parks are also endowed with rare species of birds such as the wattled crane, grey crowned crane, the Zambian barbet depicted on the K1 coin.
While the country is richly endowed with wildlife, it has struggled to derive much value for national benefit.
Instead a few individuals with insatiable appetite for wealth have been abusing these animals for personal gain.
While some individuals have been illegally killing these animals for sale and nutritional value, others have been stocking private ranches making huge sums of money for themselves.
While Government has been transacting legally with some private ranches, our concern is over those private individuals using illegal means to access these natural resources and for personal gain.
Uncontrolled access to wildlife is a threat not only to the sustainability of our ecosystem but tourism and development potential.
For instance, if well sustained and managed, wildlife can be a good source of revenue which in turn can spur the much desired development.
We know that countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are among those that are getting real value from wildlife.
Zambia too can derive value from its wildlife but it starts with prudent management of the resource.
This is why we cannot allow any individual to take a stroll into the park and capture animals.
It is indeed sad that some individuals with depraved minds have seen an opportunity in the transition taking place at the Ministry of Tourism as the new minister settles in office.
It is commendable that Mr Chitotela has been alert, hence the suspension to facilitate verification of wildlife movement certificates issued by the previous minister, Charles Banda.
The suspension will certainly help seal all the loopholes being used by unscrupulous individuals to siphon wildlife from national parks to their private ranches.
This should not however discourage Zambians who want to genuinely venture into game ranching. Actually Zambians should rise up and seize the opportunity to venture into game ranching. This will help in creating jobs and driving the economy.
It is also hoped that Government will ensure transparency in wildlife auctioning to allow interested citizens to take part.

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