Gaborone – Partner countries in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area have thrown their weight behind Botswana’s management on elephants, which includes lifting the hunting ban and castration of the largest mammal on earth.
Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which also have the largest number of elephants in the region, have confirmed their support for Botswana's management plans.
A ministerial committee recently submitted a report on elephant management strategy to President Mokgweetsi Masisi that includes several recommendations regarding overpopulation, including the lifting of the 2014 hunting ban and culling of elephants
The recommendations elicited mixed reactions from prominent conservationists referring to them as “blood laws,” while other experts and researchers have defended them noting that the overpopulation was impacting negatively on other species and contributing to an increase in human/wildlife conflict.
In a joint statement, the ministers responsible for tourism from Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who met recently to review progress on the establishment and development of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) have expressed concern about opposition to elephant depopulation plan.
The ministers responsible for environment, wildlife, natural resources, water, climate, hotels and tourism of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe met in Victoria Falls on April 11 to review progress and challenges experienced in developing of the KAZA TFCA into a world-class conservation area. The also looked into the implementation of activities for the benefit of the region and protection of its natural resources.
They voiced their support for Botswana’s new policies and programmes on elephant population management and sustainable use.
The KAZA TFCA is a conservation and development partnership of the governments of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A key objective of the KAZA TFCA is to join fragmented wildlife habitats into an interconnected mosaic of protected areas and with ecologically functional trans-boundary wildlife movement corridors as well as dispersal areas, which facilitate and enhance the free movement of wildlife across international boundaries, and opening up of larger landscapes and habitats for wildlife.
In this regard, the ministers said: “We, therefore, call upon critics on elephant population management and status to stop and allow the Republic of Botswana, and KAZA TFCA, in general, to implement policies and programmes on elephant management and sustainable use thereof, for improved economic growth, species management and community livelihoods.”
The ministers further called upon critics to provide support for sound elephant management practices in programmes such as human-wildlife conflict management; community-based natural resource management; strengthening law enforcement and combating cross-border wildlife crime; among other priorities for the KAZA TFCA`s heterogeneous landscape.
The ministers also stated in the joint statement that: “We recognise that the areas of the KAZA TFCA are inhabited by human populations. The livelihoods of the rural communities revolve around pastoralism, hunting, fishing, harvesting of reeds and sedges, growing of crops and employment as skilled labour.
“It is imperative that any programme to promote the conservation of biodiversity must, on the other hand, sustain and have a positive impact on the standard of living of these rural communities, and elephant management and sustainable use there of is no exception,” the ministers said.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations of local communities.
“We also embrace our joint responsibilities as stewards that should ensure good management of our natural resources (such as wildlife, fisheries, forests etc.) within the landscape. Natural resources are the capital for various economic opportunities that local communities and stakeholders in general should utilise. The clarion call is for the communities to be actively involved (continuously) in the protection and conservation of the pristine environment and biodiversity,” they added.
They congratulated Namibia and Zimbabwe for the awards received at the recently ended International Tourism Bourse held in Berlin, Germany.
Namibia was awarded for its Safari Management while Zimbabwe got the most Sustainable Destination and its minister, the African Tourism Minister of the year.
They also commended Zimbabwe for demonstrating strong commitment to the KAZA Vision and agenda despite past restrictions.
They further applauded Angola for performing the coordination role of KAZA TFCA from 2016 to 2018, and congratulated Botswana for taking over the coordination role.
On his part, Botswana’s environment, wildlife and tourism minister Kitso Mokaila assured that his country would effectively lead the TFCA landscape with diligence.
The biological resources of the KAZA TFCA incorporate the largest contiguous elephant population on the African continent, of which much of the population is in the KAZA TFCA component of Botswana.
“We approved the KAZA TFCA Elephant Planning Framework as a strategy for harmonising the management of KAZA TFCA elephants as a contiguous population,” said KAZA member states.