Region shows the world how to protect wildlife

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Masimba Gomo

Harare - Southern Africa has the best-preserved wildlife conservancies in the world, with five countries in the region ranked in the top ten globally by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

In partnership with Panthera, the Wildlife Conservation Unit rates conservancies and conservation programmes using what is known in the sector as the megafauna conservation index (MCI).

MCI assesses the spatial, ecological and financial contributions of 152 countries towards conservation of terrestrial megafauna - large land animals.

According to the Oxford-Panthera study, Botswana scored highest on the index, followed by fellow Southern African countries Namibia, and Tanzania. Zimbabwe was placed fifth globally while Zambia came in at position nine.

Southern Africa is home to the Big Five - lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhinoceros - and wildlife and nature tourism contribute significantly to economies in the region.

Other African countries in the top ten were the Central African Republic and Rwanda.

Kavango-Zambezi (Kaza) Transfrontier Conservation Area executive director Dr Nyambe Nyambe said the region had the world’s largest population of elephants and the desire to preserve this heritage, amongst other key resources, had seen huge investments being made in conservation of flora and fauna.

The Kaza conservation area incorporates land in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“The listing of countries from Southern Africa on (the Oxford-Panthera) list is evidence enough that the region is doing well in conservation,” Dr Nyambe said.

Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president Dr Emmanuel Fundira said SADC countries used scientific conservation methods.

“Coupled with that sustainable use of wildlife resources is the success story in the biodiversity strategy and protection of habitat as well as reduction of human-wildlife conflict.

“The biggest drawcard for tourism in Southern Africa is wildlife and our successes in conservation feed into this,” he said.

Southern Africa has vast tracts of protected territory for flora and fauna.

Increasingly, countries are entering transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) agreements.

These transboundary parks allow countries to pool human and financial resources, share strategies and implement conservation on a grand scale.

There are currently at least 18 TFCAs in the SADC region, covering more one million square kilometres – an area larger than France and Spain combined.

TFCAs now constitute more than 50 percent of the protected land in Southern Africa.

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