By Puso Kedidimetse
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs, Dr Shannon Smith says poaching is a global phenomenon which no one country can eliminate on its own.
She was responding to a question during a discussion at the trans-boundary student exchange between Batswana and Zimbabwean youth in Francistown. Dr Smith said that it was important for countries to collaborate to fight poaching syndicates who may end up decimating wildlife populations if proper policies were not put in place. “Poaching is a global problem and has now attracted dangerous criminals.
Countries need to work together especially to protect rangers who are at the forefront of the war against poaching through training and availing the necessary resources so that they could do their job safely,” she said.
The State department’s policy advisor for Southern Africa also mentioned that the just ended elephant summit covered a lot of ground in so far as combating poaching was concerned and mentioned that if the commitments that were agreed could be implemented, the problem could be controlled. She said that focusing on conservation as part of the youth exchange programme afforded the youth the opportunity to learn from each other and grow up to be responsible citizens.
The US ambassador to Botswana, Ms Michelle Gavin explained that by pursuing issues such as wildlife conservation, her government was not shifting attention away from HIV/AIDS where over US $700 million has been invested in the last ten years but rather a broadening of areas of cooperation. Recently, she said, they launched a US$64 million with the health ministry in their quest to realise an Aids free generation.
Ambassador Gavin said trans-boundary issues such as health, diseases, wildlife required concerted efforts, hence developing young leaders and recognising the importance of youth demographics of Botswana and Zimbabwe was a priority. On other issues, ambassador Gavin highlighted that Botswana had learnt a lot from the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) since it was introduced around the country.
This, she noted was one area where they could be lot of learning from neighbouring countries, especially Namibia on how conservation projects were managed by communities and how they benefit out of their participation.
US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Bruce Wharton said that both poaching for protein and commercial purposes was related to economics. He also noted that the United States government was of the belief that developing economic opportunities and making conservation relevant to communities was one way of curbing poaching of wildlife.