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Zambian President was not wrong to dissolve Wildlife Authority Board

A recent article in The Daily Maverick implied that Zambia’s newly elected President, Michael Sata, is embarking on a perilous course in terms of Zambia’s wildlife. The author, Simon Allison, mentioned that the President had said people come first in Zambia, and had pardoned something like 600 people incarcerated for various wildlife crimes. And had dissolved the Board of ZAWA – the Zambian Wildlife Authority, “leaving Zambia’s wildlife protectors without leadership”.

Now it might seem to us, based on the article, that Mr Sata has thrown conservation out the window, and actually endorses poaching. I do not believe this to be true.

Mr Sata is fully cognizant of the income stream from wildlife tourism to the economy of Zambia. I also believe he has the good of Zambia’s wildlife resources at heart. Let me explain.

Mr Sata, in an opening speech to Parliament, is quoted in the article to have said  “In order for us to preserve our wildlife for tourism, we must also put measures in place to control the problem of human-animal conflict in game management areas which has led to increased levels of hunger and poverty among our people,”

He is entirely right. The Game Management Areas have been very poorly administrated. ADMADE, the equivalent to the foreign donor sponsored CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe, encouraged rural communities to engage with trophy hunting companies in the hugely optimistic aim that those hunting companies would provide value for wildlife. Their leases would provide income, alleviate rural poverty, and conserve wildlife at the same time.

We all now know that it was a sham. Communities were paid a pittance to join the ADMADE programme, they were prohibited from growing crops and keeping livestock meantime, and as President Sata said, the programme actually increased hunger and rural poverty as the hunting companies took all the profits. Communities had no option but to poach, and doubtless the concession operators were able to arrest many of those attempting to feed their families. Commercial poachers belong behind bars, but someone hunting for the pot when given no alternative should be pardoned.

And perhaps Mr Sata is right to dissolve the ZAWA Board. They have long overseen the pathetic dribble that communities receive from hunting companies, and approved ADMADE from the start. I would hope Mr Sata had those kinds of concerns in mind when he freed “poachers” and caused a ruckus within ZAWA. I hope he will now reconstruct wildlife conservation in Zambia to encompass intelligent and considered conservation programmes that will benefit the people and the species.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:50

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