Over 700 Rhinos are killed annually in Africa – Minister

Between 700 and 1,000 Rhinos are killed annually from 2007 to date, says Tourism and Arts Minister Charles Banda.

But Banda says Zambia has only lost three Rhinos from poaching in the last 10 years.

Speaking when he launched the strategic Rhino Conservation and Management Plan (2019 –2023) and the Cheetah and Wildog national action plan for Zambia, Wednesday, Banda said the two plans aimed to build capacity in wildlife managers by providing a clear vision, objectives and interventions for sustainable conservation.

“The threat to Rhino conservation is at its peak across the continent of Africa. Media reports indicate that between 700 to 1,000 Rhinos are killed annually between 2007 to date. In Zambia, we have only lost three Rhinos from poaching so far in the last 10 years, but that was enough warning for us to take action. In an effort to address this situation, the government of the republic of Zambia has put in place several policies, structures and programmes. One such effort is the seventh national development plan with the goal of creating a diversified and resilient economy for sustained growth and socio-economic transformation,” Banda said.

“My ministry, has continued to build capacity of the department of national parks and wildlife by securing treasury authority to recruit 300 more wildlife police officers under the department of national parks and wildlife to ensure effective protection of wildlife while providing employment for Zambians. These officers have already completed their training and have since been deployed into various national parks across the country. This demonstrates the commitment and belief the government under the able leadership of his Excellency, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has in wildlife conservation and tourism development for the country.”

Banda lamented that the entire population of Rhinos was wiped-out from the country in the 1990s mainly through poaching and inadequate policing.

“However, by the mid-1990s, the entire population of Rhinos was wiped-out from the country mainly through poaching but also inadequate policing may have contributed. The government of the republic of Zambia realised that the loss of Rhino was disastrous for conservation and socio-economic development of the country since Rhino is an important species to tourism. As one of the big five wildlife species, Rhino has the potential to contribute to tourism development. It is against this background that the government of Zambia decided to reintroduce the species back into the country,” Banda said.

“As a result of this concerted effort, government and its partners managed to bring a founder population of black Rhinos into North Luangwa National Park in 2003. Government also introduced white Rhino in Mosi o Tunya National Park. The re-introduction of black and white Rhinos in the two national parks are success stories that need to be acknowledged.”

He said government’s aim was that by 2030, Zambia should have graduated from a Rhino recovery state into an internationally recognised major Rhino management state.

“My ministry’s long-term vision as described in this strategic Rhino conservation and management plan is that by 2030, Zambia should have graduated from a Rhino recovery state into an internationally recognised major Rhino management state in Africa, as it was before the 1990s. With regards to cheetah and the African wild dog, these are two species that were originally common and widespread across our country Zambia. Unfortunately over the years, the range for cheetah is slowly contracting and now has mostly remained in protected areas found on the western side of Zambia such as Liuwa , Kafue and Sioma-Ngwezi national parks,” Banda said.

He said Cheetah and Wild dog species have faced threats of disease, poaching and deliberate if not indirect snaring.

“It is sad to note that Cheetah has not been seen in south Luangwa national park for almost a decade now while only one male Cheetah was spotted in the lower Zambezi National Park in that period. Wild dog on the other hand has a wider distribution than Cheetah but still reducing. In addition, to reducing range, the two species have faced threats of disease, poaching and deliberate if not indirect snaring. The government of Zambia through my ministry recognised that cheetah and wild dog are not only important to the ecological functions of our protected areas, but to tourism development as well. They are charismatic species that are part of the top five large carnivores found in Zambia together with hyena, leopard and lion. Thus they help to draw tourists to this country and therefore have an important place in the promotion of tourism in Zambia. It is for these reasons that as a ministry, we are concerned about the two species. In addition, my ministry also recognised that cheetah and wild dog have common behaviour and face similar threats hence the development of a joint national conservation action plan for the two species,” said Banda.

“The Patriotic Front government is in a hurry to deliver tangible results to ensure our people benefit from tourism as proposed in our tourism master plan and in the Seventh National Development Plan. The government of His Excellency, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, is not scared to set ambitious goals because that is the only way we will make a difference in wildlife conservation, tourism and socio-economic development. Therefore, I wish to implore the department of National Parks and Wildlife to gunner adequate courage to ensure that the visions of the two documents are realised by effectively implementing the strategies set in these documents, so that we can grow our wildlife –based tourism industry for the benefit of the Zambian people.”

Banda also appealed to Zambians to help government to urgently develop and implement an emergency conservation plan for the Kafue Lechwe.

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