By Paidamoyo Chipunza, Senior Reporter – The Herald
The United Kingdom (UK) has hailed Zimbabwe’s elephant conservation practices, which have seen the country’s elephant population increasing to 85 000 against a carrying capacity of 55 000.
Responding to a written question by Conservative Member of Parliament for North East Hampshire Mr Ranil Jayawardena on Monday, Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development Mrs Harriet Baldwin said the UK was working with Zimbabwe on long term solutions to the issue.
The responses were captured in the United Kingdom’s Hansard.
She said the UK will also continue to support wildlife conservation in the country.
“Zimbabwe has the second largest population of elephants in the world and overpopulation of elephants is a result of good conservation practice,” said Mrs Baldwin.
“We are working with the Government of Zimbabwe on long term solutions to the issue, such as our Green Corridors initiative, and will continue to support wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe.”
Mr Jayawardena had asked on the progress regarding an assessment the department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs had made in relation to the accuracy and implications of Zimbabwe’s elephant population.
“To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of (a) the accuracy and (b) the implications of the assessment by the Tourism Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe that Zimbabwe’s carrying capacity is 55 000 elephants, but the country now has a population of 85 000 elephants,” asked Mr Jayawardena.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira recently revealed that the country was now overpopulated with elephants and Government was pushing for lifting of ivory trade restrictions provided for under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said some of the country’s major conservation practices included anti-poaching patrols, research and monitoring of the species, as well as carrying out conservation education and awareness campaigns in local communities living with wildlife.
“We also educate our communities living with wildlife to view elephants and any other wildlife as an economic opportunity,” said Mr Farawo.
He said communities benefit from proceeds made by Government through tourist visits and the sale of the same species. Early this month, Government announced that it earned about US$2,7 million after exporting 97 elephants to China and Dubai. The money was used to strengthen the country’s conservation activities.
Speaking at the Africa Elephant Summit held in Kasane, Botswana early this month, President Mnangagwa emphasized the need by the global community to lift a ban on ivory trade.
He said poverty eradication in rural communities can be enhanced if countries are allowed to “trade and benefit” from the elephants.