By Julius Phiri
United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz has bemoaned the high levels of poaching in national parks.
Mr Schultz said in his reflection on his trip to Kafue National Park that it is no secret that the poaching crisis has affected all of southern Africa and that poachers are operating within Zambia’s borders.
He said informal surveys estimate that there are no more than 2,000 elephants left within the park boundaries.
Mr Schultz said criminals who kill the most regal of Zambia’s creatures were taking tusks only.
He said the criminals should be sought out and prosecuted to the fullest extent of Zambia’s law.
“Zambia’s elephants, rhinos, and other treasured wildlife are for all Zambians to enjoy and appreciate. More, elephants and other wildlife can be a centerpiece of a thriving and profitable tourism industry, employing tens of thousands of Zambians, but only if that wildlife is well-protected,” Mr Schultz said.
He learnt that the Kafue National Park and Game Management Area elephant population is estimated to have been cut almost in half over the past five years due to poaching.
Mr Schultz said encroachment is also a major problem in the national park.
He congratulated Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and its officers for their commitment and dedication to protecting Zambia’s wildlife under harsh circumstances and in the face of rising poaching pressures.
He has since encouraged the Government to look for new ways to support the communities around its national parks.
The ambassador has also encouraged all stakeholders to work together with the Zambian Government and communities to support their efforts.
Mr Schultz said there is need to turn the tragic poaching crisis trend around and for Zambia to establish a framework under which both local communities and the entire economy will profit from Zambia’s wilderness treasures for generations to come.