By Caristo Chitamfya
Zambia has re-affirmed its commitment against poaching and illegal trafficking of wild life in Africa.
Speaking at the African Tourism Ministers’ meeting on anti-poaching chaired by UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai at the ongoing ITB Tourism Fair in Berlin yesterday, Tourism and Arts Deputy Minister Lawrence Evans said poaching and the illegal trade in wild life was a cross border problem that needed concerted efforts from all countries involved.
He said Zambia had already taken measures to curb the illegal trade as demonstrated by the ban on hunting and the review of the Zambia Wildlife Act and the Tourism Policy both aimed at strengthening the legal frame work.
Mr. Lawrence said that Zambia would welcome international efforts to trace the sources of illegal wildlife such as the technology of carbon dating rhino horns that enables authorities to determine exactly which countries the animals came from.
At the same meeting, Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Kagasheki reported that the Government of the East African nation had declared war on poaching by engaging the military to fight the scourge. The Minister said that poaching syndicates had become sophisticated resorting to such tactics as the use of high speed motor bikes and bribing of local people.
The Tanzanian Minister further reported that his country has an ivory stock pile of 118 tones but urged the international community to put it beyond economic use as a way of cutting the market.
And Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism Engineer Walter Mzembi said the professionalization of poaching is worrying as it involves dangerous criminal syndicates. He said that Zimbabwe had lost over one hundred elephants through poisoning during the month of the UNWTO General Assembly alone and that his Government will push for African countries to have a common agenda at the next CAF meeting in Angola in order to find a lasting solution to the problem of illegal wild life trade.
Meanwhile South Africa expressed a different view by urging the meeting to consider allowing African countries to get income from game cropping of elephants on one hand and the breeding of endangered species such as Rhinos, on the other. The country’s Tourism Minister Martinus Van Schakwyk said South Africa’s elephant population has been on the increase and hence the need to crop them. The South African minister argued that African countries will always be on the losing side as long as the demand side of the illegal trade is not eradicated. He said South Africa will table these proposals at the next CITES meeting.
And contributing to the debate, Seychelles Minister of Tourism Alain St. Ange urged the meeting not to limit the fight of illegal wild life trade to Rhinos and elephants arguing that Africa was losing a number of other valuable wild life resources such as tortoise as well as fauna used in aquariums around the world, a practice he said was adversely affecting the bio-diversity of the continent. The Seychelles Minister has proposed that a list be compiled of all the nature and wildlife resources that Africa needs to protect.
At the closing of a high-level conference on illegal trade in wildlife hosted by the United Kingdom (UK) and the British Royal Family on February 14, 2014, representatives from 46 States endorsed the 'London Declaration,' emphasizing urgent action to end wildlife trafficking and eliminate demand through high-level political commitment and international cooperation.
The African Tourism Ministers meeting in Berlin is a follow-up to the ‘London Declaration’ and is one of the many high level meetings that the Zambian delegation is attending at the ongoing ITB Tourism Fair in Berlin-Germany. The meeting was organized by the UNWTO Secretariat and attended by 16 African Ministers of Tourism, the German Government as well as international wildlife organizations. Zambia is being represented by Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts Lawrence Evans, Permanent Secretary Steven Mwansa, Zambian Ambassador to Germany Bwalya Chiti and other officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB).