On the second day, the 64th General Assembly of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) hosted a panel discussion with representatives from Africa, under the motto Keep Calm and Let Africa Speak!
Arthur Musakwa, Director of Wildlife at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate; Pasteur Dr. Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa, Director General of The Congo Institute of Conservation of Nature of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Paul Zyambo, Director of Widlilfe Agency in Zambia; Elly Hamunjela, Director of Division of Wildlife Utilization of Environment and Tourism of Namibia; and Wilfried Pabst, Owner of the Sango at the Save Valley Conservancy participated on this very important panel.
Keep Calm and Let Africa Speak
The Keep Calm and Let Africa Speak! movement was born out of recognition that some proposals and proposed amendments, which had been put forward to the CITES Conference of the Parties17 last September in Johannesburg, South Africa, have a detrimental effect on many countries where the sustainable consumptive use of wildlife provides vital income for the survival and expansion of conservation efforts. This income also safeguards the livelihoods, education, and upliftment of local rural people coexisting with wildlife, thus contributing to poverty eradication.
In Africa, living alongside wildlife is often challenging and can have disastrous negative consequences. The revenue from consumptive use substantially helps with the implementation of measures which negate the destruction of livestock and crops, thus improving the livelihood of those living in close proximity to the wildlife. In addition, sustainable consumptive use can often be the best form of land use in arid and poor soil regions by providing sorely needed employment and a supply of protein.
The African Range States should have always a say on the future of their wildlife. The Governments of Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Tanzania expressed their frustrations and concerns over the imposition of rules and guidelines, developed without their input, which would adversely affect wildlife conservation and employment creation in their respective home countries by foreign governments. The CIC supports its members in providing an inter-governmental platform, a movement for them, and thus Keep Calm and Let Africa Speak was born.
Incentives for rural communities
Zimbabwe strongly subscribes to the philosophy of sustainable utilization of wildlife and natural resources in general. The coexistence of communities with wildlife would not be possible without contribution coming from sustainable hunting. Arthur Musakwa highlighted that hunting is not a new philosophy in their society, it has been practiced by their ancestors. Zimbabwe has grown better in hunting practices and management, which determines the number of animals harvested. “We do not need to be told how to manage wildlife, especially not by countries who no longer have wildlife because they have not conserved theirs. Hunting supports peoples’ livelihoods and it is an important tool for conservation since a significant portion of the revenue is reinvested into the communities.” – Mr. Musakwa said.
Paul Zyambo underlined that despite the loss of lives and poverty in Zambia, the communities can still live in harmony with wildlife, and this is because of the incentives that come from consumptive use. The increasing threats, that would undermine sustainable trophy hunting and take away incentives which ensure the survival of these wild animals, are initiated by those countries where trophy hunters are coming from. The misinterpreted and false information has spread in order to restrict the transportation of hunting trophies from Africa to Europe could possibly succeed, as two airlines – and other transportation companies – have shown willingness to support these ideas. These attempts intend to take away incentives from local people, who live with wildlife and conserve it. He stressed that the conservation and hunting communities have to find the ways to enhance sustainable trophy harvesting and vigorously lobby for the consumptive use of wildlife. He then called upon the developed countries to reconsider their position on restricting imports of trophies of elephants and other species, especially from East and West Africa. Zyambo added, if trophy hunting is taken away, then the industry will collapse. Trophy hunting should be well-regulated but not restricted. “Trophy importing countries should start a dialogue with the trophy exporting countries to find a win-win situation. Decision makers should take into consideration the damage their decisions cause to the communities and wildlife. We urge them to consult with individual countries on this. We need to ensure that incentives for rural communities are not taken away. We need to do whatever is possible to stop these proposals from happening. “
Elly Hamunjela explained that in Namibia 50% of the population has to live with wildlife, while in the northern hemisphere people only spend their lives in urban areas without any real connection with wildlife or wild lands. In Namibia, the communities are forced to choose between killing wildlife and living with wildlife but for them, in order be able to share their lands in everyday life, it is essential to get benefits from it. The Community Based Natural Resource Management programs in Namibia were established in 1996 with the aim to give local communities rights to manage and also sustain their wildlife resources. These local communities are now getting benefits from wildlife, mainly through sustainable hunting, which has not only created jobs, but serves as the main source of income. On the other hand, the consumptive use of wildlife is beneficial for local communities in so many other ways, it has also allowed for investment in social infrastructure, construction of hospitals, electrification of rural areas, procurement of water, building of schools, among many other things. Not only do local communities get benefits through these programs, but wildlife does too. The elephant population has increased from 7,500 in the 1990s to over 22,000 today. Out of that 22,000 only a few individuals are living in formal protected areas. The rest are free to roam. Their lion range has expanded in communal areas, not in protected areas. They now have rhinos living with local communities. The number of plains game has also increases significantly.
Many people thing hunting is just beneficial to rich people but the opposite is in fact true – the main beneficiaries from hunting are the local community and wildlife. “Without hunting we cannot conserve wildlife, not in my country, I can say that with confidence. Hunting is an integral part of conservation, and if we remove it, it will collapse. Who will win at the end? Not wildlife, nor communities.”
Pasteur Dr. Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa, representing The Congo Institute of Conservation of Nature stressed the point that in the DRC, especially in the national parks, poaching reached a critical level, but is now on its way to improvement. The poaching was not due to hunters abusing the system but to poachers, sent there to decimate the wildlife. They had 100 rangers in the area which was not enough to protect the wildlife. Finding solutions to fight poachers is a fundamentally critical issue for the DRC to strategically solve, these are people who are already not even pretending to follow rules and regulations, they are coming for the products of the animals in any way they can. The DRC remains committed to combatting this and commended the CIC for its work on this issue as well.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the largest countries in Africa with a great conservation tradition. The Congo Institute of Conservation of Nature manages all parks and reserves, hunting grounds, zoos, and all hunting stations in the country. The first national park was created in 1925 with the aim to preserve wildlife for future generations. The Democratic Republic of Congo established its first agency in 1934, which since then employs 4,000 staff members involved in the conservation work of the park. The country has rich biodiversity with more than 400 species.
The Democratic Republic of Congo expressed his interest in joining the CIC, and strengthen the forces of its African allies.
Wilfried Pabst, a German businessman is the owner of the Sango in the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe, which is a role model to the private sector implementing a comprehensive community participation and conservation development program. Private reserves and community based conservancies all over the world protect critical habitat in various ecosystems and play a crucial role in the protection of highly endangered species, especially in Africa, where a minimum of 60 million hectares of private land is under some form of wildlife protection or sustainable wildlife management.
The Conservancy holds more than 4,000 buffalo, 1,600 elephants, and over 160 black and white rhinos; has brought poaching under control; and have wildlife populations which show high growth rates, despite the serious poaching threats particularly for rhinos.
In Mozambique, poaching has annihilated the populations of wild animals, therefore, Sango in the Save Valley Conservancy will donate and translocate 2,000 plains game animals, which are in excess because of the positive impact of sustainable hunting, to its African neighbor. The donation comes from Sango in the Save Valley Conservancy to Mozambique in cooperation and with the support of the Peace Park Foundation of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and the CIC.