Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Involve African elephant range communities in conservation, CITES told
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe - The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation says the conservation of endangered animal species in Africa can succeed only if the benefits are shared equally with the rural communities which live side by side with the wild animals.
Addressing delegates to a European Commission (EC) wildlife conservation reform meeting which sought ways of co-opting practical guideline from the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBRNM) wildlife conservation model into the existing Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conservation model, ICGWC expert conservationist Rolf Baldus said severe restrictions on the culling of elephants and trade in endangered species as imposed by CITES should be relaxed to ensure that rural communities which suffer huge losses annually to wild animals share the benefits of local conservation programmes.
“CITES decisions must take into account the needs of rural people, who live side by side with the wildlife that we want to conserve. In the long run it will be impossible to protect wildlife against the interests of rural people who bear the costs, but rarely get the benefits of conservation.
"They have the means to exterminate the endangered species and can do so if it improves their living conditions and if we neglect them. Total protection restrictions such as those imposed by CITES will become counter-productive to the protection of animals if they continue to violate the interests of rural people,” said Baldus.
He said the sustainable hunting of species like elephant, lion, leopard and other game can provide considerable revenues for conservation while improving the livelihoods of the poor rural subsistence farmers who are always the losers in the worsening human-animal conflict.
"Total protection of wildlife which can be selectively and sustainably hunted does not support its survival. If no mechanism is found that better represents the interests of rural people at CITES, the Convention will fall short of its objectives in the case of a number of high profile species. As a consequence this will also adversely affect their habitats, which they share with thousands of other species which are not even listed for protection in the Convention," Baldus added.
The human-animal conflict remains a serious problem in Zimbabwe where communities living adjacent to game sanctuaries suffer heavy crop losses annually to rhinos, elephants, buffalo and other small game while carnivores like lions, hyenas, leopard, and wild dogs hunt down their livestock.
In areas bordering the Hwange National Park, there are many cases where humans have been mauled or trampled to death as they try to scare the animals off their fields.
Despite having a huge and largely uncontrolled wild elephant population which is in perpetual conflict with its human neighbours, the CITES regulations forbid Zimbabwe from culling the beasts.
As part of a strict 'total protection' conservation policy which is aimed at allowing the elephant population to grow after heavy poaching which decimated it between 1980 and 1992, CITES banned Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya from trading in elephant products.
More than 60 participants from governments, non-governmental organisations and community-based project leaders from across the world attended the special EC session which was held in Vienna, Austria last late last week.
Source: African Environmental Police