THE increasing number of people involved in wildlife crimes is frustrating conservation efforts in southern Africa, and are today rated fourth in illegal global syndicates of trafficking in narcotics, counterfeits and humans.
Therefore, for people interested in the transnational nature of wildlife and that of communities around transfrontier conservation areas in wildlife protected areas in the sub-region, their destination was Protea Hotel OR Tambo Kempton Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Last week, Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) hosted an advisory committee meeting for representatives of countries with transfrontier conservation areas in the region.
Zambia was represented by Ministry of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Stephen Mwansa, Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) acting director general Kampamba Kombe, national director of the Transfrontier Conservation Area Unit at the Ministry of Tourism and Arts Andrew Nambota and tourism director Albert Muchanga, among others.
The meeting, which took place from September 1 to 3, looked at matters ranging from community development to empowerment of people living in areas where there are wild animals.
It was learnt during the meeting that there was need to enhance institutional arrangements so that decisions can be made for the benefit of local communities.
This is because these are the people who live alongside wildlife and face several risks that could stem from human-wildlife conflicts. And many such communities still grapple with challenges of food insecurity and poor access to clean drinking water.
It was also noted during the meeting that local communities lack knowledge on matters of energy and that they need to practice eco charcoal burning to minimise the effects of deforestation in protected areas. It was further observed that local communities can benefit from the application of conservation agriculture principles.
According to Brad Poole of PPF, illegal wildlife trade has risen to an annual value of between US$7 billion and US$22 billion.
Mr Poole said just last year, records show that 35,000 elephants in the region and 1,800 rhinos in South Africa alone were lost to poaching.
He said poachers have developed complicated methods of carrying out their ‘business’ such that if an elephant is poached in Africa today, it would reach the target market in the Far East within 48 hours. This, he said, is because of the readily available market abroad and the advanced technology used in wildlife crime syndicates.
Mr Poole said there is need to understand the value chain and work towards breaking it and improving protection measures to successfully combat wildlife crimes.
He underscored the need to disrupt the distribution chain as a measure to counter trafficking by reducing demand through changing consumer behaviour.
Meanwhile, Mr Kombe, the ZAWA acting director general, had to proceed to Pretoria to meet directors of Paramount Group, a defence and security firm working with Aerosud and Thales which supply advanced security cameras that could be used to combat poaching and other wildlife crimes.
According to Paula Roughley, manager at Thales, her firm supplies infra-red cameras which are so efficient that poachers can be spotted even when they are hiding under tree canopies.
The infra-red rays detect any amount of heat energy and provide a picture of the object under surveillance, and so it works well for anti-poaching activities.
At its hanger, Paramount Group has different aircrafts and can supply large organisations like the United Nations.
The group also trains dogs, a marvellous activity to any visitor’s eye. ZAWA is in the process of establishing a canine unit and therefore needs all this information to successfully set up this unit in its system.
Till next week when I share with you experiences from Bwabwata National Park and the frigid coast of Swakopmund in Namibia, it is cheerio for now!
The author is ZAWA public relations officer.
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