Prince Harry Applauds Conservation Efforts, But There’s More to Be Done
As part of the Duke of Sussex’s two-day visit to Zambia, last night he addressed a crowd at the British High Commission. The father-to-be noted that we have an impressive portfolio of natural assets, full of precious ecosystems, natural resources and wildlife. Indeed, assets that if we harness responsibly and sustainably can bring greater prosperity to Zambians, which at a time of worryingly high external debt, is greatly needed.
There are undoubtedly organisations working in Zambia who go to great lengths to protect our biodiversity and natural resources. For example, African Parks have overseen some of Zambia’s most impressive conservation efforts; increasing Back Lechwe populations from 35,000 to 50,000 in Bangweulu, increasing Liuwa Plain’s lion population from just one female, to a growing pride of 10 and funding numerous community development initiatives that build community infrastructure projects and anti-poaching programs. These parks are indeed exceptional examples of how people and wildlife can co-exist in a shared space and thrive.
However, we must be cautious when praising Zambia’s Tourism and Arts Department and the Zambian Wildlife Authority. Shockingly, under the PF’s watch the ZRA have overseen an 83% decline of fresh water species in the Kafue basin, a basin that accounts for the livelihoods of roughly 50% of Zambians and one that is vital for agriculture, hydroelectric power and other industry sectors.
In addition, our poaching crisis is by no means over. Just recently Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders stated that in Zambia we have let our elephant populations be ‘poached to the verge of local extinction.’ All the while the PF have proposed a dubious hippo cull in the Luangwa Valley under the guise of an incredibly suspicious tender process.
Most environmental specialists and conservation groups such as Born Free International, have condemned the decision, claiming that there is no evidence of over population to justify the killing of 2,000 hippos – a species listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Redd List. It seems increasingly likely this was a decision made due to money, not the welfare of our fragile ecosystems.
The current PF government seems to be either unaware or uninterested in the value our natural heritage holds. This isn’t just about safaris and tourism, it’s about water and food supplies, air quality, agricultural diversity and the health of future generations.
Just this past fortnight global leaders on conservation have been meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt to discuss this exact issue – how do we protect the world’s biodiversity before it’s too late? One of the most exciting propositions is the idea of committing to 30 by 30, protecting 30% of land and oceans by 2030. This would safeguard not only animals and plants by the communities living alongside them.
Zambia could benefit greatly from better managed protected areas and community conservation integration. If managed properly, the landscape we have been blessed with can offer us hope at a time when prosperity is waning. We are in desperate need of a government that takes our environmental future seriously and if the PF cannot provide that, then we must as citizens look to others who can.