Tourism and Arts Minister Ronald Chitotela has called for the review of Game Management Areas (GMAs) that have been encroached in the country, saying there was need to reconsider their use to enhance human development.

And the minister has warned conservationists in the country to respect both civic and traditional leadership in their areas of operation if they are to be in good books with ministry.

Speaking when he officiated at the 3rd national Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) conference in Lusaka, Thursday, under the theme ‘fostering dialogue in CBNRM to promote good governance and mitigate the impact of climate change’, Chitotela noted that the move to review the use of some GMAs was in a bid to reduce human animal conflict.

“When I engaged the traditional leadership, I was indicating to them that, of the country’s total square footage, a quarter of that is what we have been given the mandate to man. The maps for GMAs and national parks were done some time before independence and when the population was very low, but due to the increase in human population and development, the GMAs and parks have lost 3,100 square kilometers of that land and we have been asking why the area that has been encroached upon by our people can continuously be referred to as GMA. So today as we continue our policy statement in parliament, I want to suggest that we agree that we look at our maps of the GMAs where our people have encroached, we need to re-align our boundaries and maybe we make use of that 3,100 square kilometers that has been encroached upon by our people so that we can give room for human development and then we can change our boundaries,” he said.

“This will be done to lessen that wildlife human conflict but with a view that with a view that we may not be compromised to temper with the animal corridor. So we need to find a way of dealing with that because we have to change with the times and the development trends in society.”

He further cautioned conservationists to remember that they were “partners” and not “helpers” in the quest to conserve the country’s natural resources.

“And I don’t believe in the statement like conservation Luangwa, conservation Zambezi, conservation what, are helping us. No, they are not helping us, we are partnering with them to conserve our nature. You come to me with the idea of saying you’re helping me, I will say ‘I don’t need your help’. You must come to say we need to partner, I hope that is very clear because when I was in Luangwa, I heard very disturbing news where people who were operating do not recognise the authority and I was at the verge of declaring those people prohibited immigrants in our gazetted areas and this statement is a statement that doesn’t just apply to apply to Luangwa or the river Zambezi but in all our areas of interest. So if you don’t recognise the local people, I will not recognise you,” he added.

And the minister warned conservationists to corporate with the communities they operate in.

“I must note that we have our friends who are operating as conservationists, I want to urge you to corporate well with the communities where you are operating. You must respect the local authority, you must respect the traditional authorities in the areas you are operating. If you don’t recognise them as our partners, unfortunately I don’t issues threats, I issue statements of facts, and you will not be my friend. If you don’t respect traditional leaders and you want to respect me, I am a cultured child because I have a village and I have a chief, then you won’t be my friend, if you respect chiefs and respect people where you are working from then you will be my friend. I hope that message goes straight to those who are working as conservationists in our GMAs. And those of our friends Zambians working with the support of the donor community, that is how it must be, don’t neglect the communities,” said Chitotela.

“I have always said that were elephants are fighting, the grass suffers, therefore if there is a strange relationship where in the day you want to fight in the media before you can engage the minister and then after that you want come and sit down and find a solution. No, if you have any misunderstanding, any issue, please bring them to tour attention, bring them to my attention. What I have learnt from the royal highnesses is that where people sit down to dialogue, insaka, a solution will definitely be found.”