The Ministers of the countries represented at the just ended elephant summit have expressed optimism about the outcomes of the conference.
Zambian Tourism and Arts Minister, Dr Charles Banda said the outcomes of the summit would help open doors that the region has been seeking access to. Commenting after a presentation of the technical meeting outcomes on May 6, Dr Banda said speaking with one voice would help open the world’s eyes to how the region wants to manage its elephants. He observed that the international community wants to dictate to the region on the management of elephants, therefore tackling the issue collaboratively would make it clear to the rest of the world how the region wants the issue approached.
Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta said he was happy that the summit would create a platform for the region to come up with a united voice on issues associated with the management of elephants. Minister Shifeta said previously, the region had divergent voices that made it difficult for the outside world to understand.
He noted that the region faces the challenge of local communities having to live alongside wild animals yet some members of the international community view Africa as a zoo and cared more about wild animals than communities. Shifeta said having the largest elephant population is a clear indication that the region knows about the conservation of the animals and should therefore be able to manage them.
“Animal rights groups have no understanding of the reality on the ground, therefore speaking with a united voice will help in taking a clear message across to the international community on Southern Africa’s concern,” he said.
For his part, Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila assured the region that Botswana would start to play a pivotal role in KAZA conservation issues. Mokaila called for a thorough engagement of the international community on market issues and the formulation of a communication strategy. Earlier, when presenting the technical meeting outcomes, Dr Russell Taylor – the Transboundary Conservation Planning Advisor for the World Wildlife Fund – had indicated that the southern African elephant range states are subjected to constant media scrutiny at the expense of the plight of rural communities who bear the brunt of living with the animals.
The KAZA impact monitoring spatial tool, he said, indicates that Botswana and Zimbabwe have a large elephant population, while their numbers continue to soar in Namibia and Zambia. Dr Taylor said one of the technical meeting’s resolutions on elephant populations was to ensure the continuous assessment of the elephants’ impact in relation to settlement developments and address the Human-Wildlife Conflict using the key principles of consultation/dialogue, information and communication, particularly in relation to value-based differences.
On the legal trade and use of live elephants and their parts, Dr Taylor said the meeting resolved that there should be engagement of transit and destination countries for illegal ivory at bilateral and multilateral levels to address issues of demand reduction, to lobby support for a proposal to review the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and to increase community participation in CITES.
Dr Taylor highlighted that the Human-Elephant Conflict is a challenge for most KAZA states due to limited resources and the effects of climate change. The technical meeting, he said, resolved that there should be integrated land use planning and harmonisation of land use policies at KAZA level. Furthermore, it resolved that communities should be provided with incentives to opt to farm outside wildlife corridors. With regards to the hunting, cropping and culling of wildlife, Dr Taylor said it was decided that benefits from hunting should reach all people in the communities to alleviate poverty.
It was concluded that KAZA should adopt community conservation policies and practices with structures that devolve participatory decision-making processes to the local level in human-occupied wildlife areas, for instance, by allowing communities to utilise income from hunting.