THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (Mangaliso Ndlovu): Thank you, Mr Speaker Sir. I wish to table a response before this House on the report which was submitted by the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism on Elephant management in Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks. Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to thank the Committee for a well-articulated report and very clear and instructive recommendations they made.
Mr Speaker Sir, I would like to go through some of the issues raised to offer more clarity but I will dwell more on the recommendations they made. On the submissions from wildlife producers and Hwange RDC Councilor, there were two issues which were raised by the wildlife producers; the first one is on the security of tenure that did not persuade them to make long-term investment decisions. Mr Speaker Sir, my Ministry has given appropriate authority to private wildlife producers and 58 rural district councils under the Parks and Wildlife Act.
Conferring of appropriate authority gives the landowner the custodianship of wildlife and user rights over wildlife in their farms. So, neither the Ministry nor the Zimbabwe National Parks are responsible for the administration of agricultural land or land outside the Parks and Wildlife except where the area of communal land not under a rural district council has not been appointed appropriate authority according to the Parks and Wildlife Act. Wildlife producers are urged to approach the Ministry of Lands for the appropriate land tenure issues.
The second issue they raised was on the compensation of wildlife victims. This matter, I will cover substantively under Section 4.4 later on in this report. I wish to now turn to the issues that were raised by Chief Nekatambe. Items (a), which is the lack of community benefits from wildlife and CAMPFIRE proceeds not benefitting communities at all; on this Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to advise the Committee that in an effort to ensure that communities benefit from wildlife and other natural resources, the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management instituted the CAMPFIRE.
This Community based natural resource management programme has the following objectives which are still applicable, I will just mention a few; the first one is of the enhancement of rural livelihoods and strengthened economic prospects of the community by involving local people in economic benefits and management of wildlife. The other one is to give control of wildlife management to rural communities so that they would invest in wildlife and habited conservation and in turn receive dividends which is the devolution of management of wildlife and benefits from wildlife and other natural resources to local communities. It also helps to develop positive attitudes surrounding animal conservation in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the wildlife resource and its habitat and reduce human-wildlife conflict and illegal hunting.
The cornerstone of CAMPFIRE is the devolution of rights to manage, use, dispose of and benefit from wildlife resources to communities. In general, the CAMPFIRE initiative has managed to score some notable achievements and these include;
· The devolution of wildlife management outside protected areas;
· The direct benefits in the form of household incomes which have been realised in most CAMPFIRE areas, including Hwange unlike during the pre-CAMPFIRE era;
· From the initial phase of CAMPFIRE, we witnessed reduced human-wildlife conflict incidences and poaching;
· Wild animal population such as elephants and buffalos increase outside protected areas.
Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to highlight just a few challenges on the CAMPFIRE Project. There have been challenges faced by CAMPFIRE leading to reduced household benefits and these include the following;
· For the last few years, unprecedented poaching of elephants and other wildlife through use of poison in and around Hwange National Park, which is an indication of failure on the part of CAMPFIRE to satisfy communities;
· We have also observed increasing human population which now averages at least 16 people per square kilometer in some key wildlife areas which hampers wildlife conservation, hence affecting CAMPFIRE income;
The other issue that I wish to clarify Mr Speaker Sir is on the human and wildlife conflict, which is a very important issue. This issue is an unavoidable cost of living in communities living in proximity to wildlife, which is difficult to eradicate and is a common phenomenon throughout the country. I will just highlight a few statistics Mr Speaker Sir, which are ranging from 2016 to 2019;
People killed by elephants in 2016 were 26, in 2017, they were 40, in 2018 they were 20, in 2019 they were 42. For these four years, they give us a total of 128 people. Injured by elephants, they total 98. The livestock killed by wildlife; cattle in total for four years is 462, for donkeys, it is 94 and for goats, it is 544. The Hwange District forms one of Zimbabwe’s four main wildlife regions and hence a focal point of human-wildlife conflict.
There is a table which highlights the situation in Hwange from January to February 2020. We have already lost two lives, lost 10 cattle, one donkey and 14 goats. I will touch on a few drivers on human-wildlife conflicts, particularly in Hwange District. The first one, there is a high elephant population beyond the ecological carrying capacity and human population encroaching into the elephant habitat and movement corridors. Climate change has also seen an increased frequency of droughts – elephants mostly move outside the park estates in search for water and foliage since they are water-dependent and require large amounts of feed, thereby intensifying human-wildlife conflict. There is also incompatible land-use planning which is a key issue as encroachment into wildlife habitat and movement corridors continue, thereby reducing land for wildlife. The conflict arises when the community enter the park or move around the park. For example, looking for their domestic animals. There is also a lack of a buffer zone which means that wildlife in the park has easy and direct access to communal areas adjoining the parks.
There was an issue Mr Speaker Sir which was raised on the non-employment of locals. The local people are employed as either contract workers, rangers, lodge attendants, guides and are notified of vacant permanent posts that they may be qualified to apply for. Of all the five new rangers who were employed in Hwange in 2019, 100% of them came from the local communities.
In 2018 Mr Speaker Sir, Zimparks recruited 22 rangers from Matabeleland North and South provinces which were 22% of the national total countrywide intake. There was also the issue raised where Zimparks is not contributing to the development of the local community infrastructure. Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to highlight that the development of infrastructure is the specific mandate of CAMPFIRE where RDCs are a part of. However, I wish to highlight also that there are a number of community projects that have been facilitated through national parks. I will just name a few but they are quite many. They include the construction of the classroom block in Nekatambe School; the restocking of the Sidinda Conservancy with wildlife from Zambezi National Park and the construction of the Mabale Community Centre which is in progress from KAZA facilitated funds among others.
There is the issue of lack of compensation Mr Speaker Sir. It is true that Zimparks does not offer direct compensation for loses suffered as a result of human-wildlife conflict as this is not enshrined in the country’s statutes nor in the national park’s policies. The issue of compensation is further complicated by the fact that in Zimbabwe, communities are the custodians of the wildlife in their areas, who are empowered to benefit from the wildlife as a result of the fact that RDCs enjoys appropriate authority status to manage the wildlife in the communal areas for the communities benefit to ameliorate losses suffered by the communities.
Mr Speaker Sir, I now want to shed more light on the issue raised concerning the research in human and wildlife conflict in Hwange. Research into human-wildlife conflict in Hwange and other areas in Zimbabwe, both by Zimparks and other local and international researchers facilitated by Zimparks is ongoing. The human-wildlife conflict is one of the most comprehensively researched areas as far as wildlife management in Zimbabwe is concerned. Some of the studies have been published while others have not. Work mostly focused on human-elephant conflict but considerable work has also been done on other conflict species and on human-wildlife conflict in general. The bulk of the work focused on mitigation measures for human-wildlife conflict and there is also some research on the dynamics of human-wildlife conflict in the area and reporting systems.
I now turn to the recommendations that were made by the Committee. The first one is on elephant sale and export, Zimbabwe’s elephant population together with those of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are on CITES Appendix II while for the rest of Africa they are in Appendix 1. Appendix I listed species are threatened with extinction and may not be traded internationally for commercial purposes. Appendix II listed species may be subjected to controlled international trade. There are trade restrictions, however, and these are as follows: –
The first one is the CITES stricter domestic measures. Zimbabwe is aware that international cooperation is fundamental to achieving the objectives of the convention. Zimbabwe is concerned that stricter domestic measures are taken pursuant to Article XIV, paragraph 1 of the Convention have an adverse impact on the conservation status of its wildlife species. Trophy hunting generates income that is ploughed into wildlife conservation and used for rural community development programmes and projects. Zimbabwe has always challenged the appropriateness of such stricter domestic measures by importing countries and expressed its position against such measures and has justified its position on a scientific basis.
The other challenge is on CITES quotas, the utilisation of elephants, crocodiles, cheetahs and leopards through trophy tourism or hunting is controlled through CITES approved quotas. The maximum quota limit for trophy hunting is 500 individual animals which give us a thousand tusks for elephants; 200 individuals for crocodiles; 50 for cheetahs and 500 for leopards.
The other challenge is that of placing species on CITES Appendix I, wildlife species such as rhinos are listed on CITES Appendix I. The listing of species means that the wildlife concerned may not be internationally traded on commercial basis. The listing on CITES Appendix I means that Zimbabwe may not be able to get the full value of its wildlife particularly the rhino.
I turn to the definition of the acceptable and appropriate destinations under the conference of parties of CITES. An addition to our Appendix II listing was introduced and this referred to the new definition of acceptable and appropriate destinations as referenced to the external trade in live elephant and rhinos. The effect of this amendment is that African elephants can only be sold to another African country a position which we opposed as SADC – unfortunately unsuccessfully so.
Elephant ivory and rhino horn stock piles, currently Zimbabwe has 130 tonnes of elephant ivory stock piles and about five tonnes of rhino horns in its vault which it cannot trade because of CITES trade restrictions. The last CITES approved elephant ivory sale was done in China and Japan in 2008. The ivory and rhino horns stocks continue to accumulate in the stores. There are many costs associated with the management of the stock piles including the provision of manpower to provide a 24 hour security. Also there is limited physical storage space, the monitoring infrastructure and equipment, record keeping and other administrative tasks. The stocks are worth over USD$600 million. We continue to explore options for legal trade in these assets despite the heavy restrictions imposed by CITES.
The other challenge is on the impacts of trade restrictions. The impact of ban on importation will adversely affect communities who have invested land and service to conservation of wildlife for decades. There will be huge negative, social and economic impacts in Zimbabwe particularly on local communities. For example, 65% of Zimbabwe’s annual elephant export quota is utilised outside the State protected areas i.e. the private and communal lands. The potential losses in revenue will result in loss of confidence in community based natural resource management programmes such as CAMPFIRE and will reverse the gains that had been achieved in conservation.
Mr. Speaker Sir on this one, I think there is an omission of a critical statement that there are major source countries for our imports which is the United States of America and Britain who are currently having legislative processes to ban the importation of trophies.
Recommendation two is on co-management of wildlife, my ministry, through the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Plan (2018-2023) recognises the need for co-management of wildlife in Zimbabwe. Co-management is a relatively new concept with long term binding arrangements and therefore needs to be approached with caution.
Recommendation three is on devolution of the management of wildlife. Zimparks through their Act has a national mandate to manage wildlife in the country. However, we recognise the importance of communities as custodians of wildlife resources in communal areas. The review of the CAMPFIRE policy seeks to further extend devolution right down to the ward and households, as opposed to district level which is the current status quo. Devolution of wildlife management to the lowest levels, that is communities, has always been a principle the authority has upheld as evidenced by the critical role which it placed in the formation and support of CAMPFIRE. It needs to be taken into account however that 100% devolution has to be taken with caution. This is because some level of oversight is necessary to curb elite capture of community programmes. CAMPFIRE while seen as a form of devolution nationally, may be regarded as a centralised system by local communities, who wish for greater decision making at their local levels. It is one of the reasons that the CAMPFIRE review was undertaken.
Mr Speaker Sir, the next recommendation is on whistleblowers. There is no provision for whistleblowing in the current Parks legislation. However, Section 129 (5) provides for a reward for surrendering prescribed trophies which are found. The legislative review process being done under GEF6 presents a window of opportunity to include whistleblowing issues. It is an issue I believe is worth considering when the current Act is reviewed.
There is also the Reward system which was raised. Currently, in terms of Section 129 (5) of the Parks and Wildlife Act, the Minister can make regulations which provide for a reward for surrendering prescribed trophies (e.g elephants products, rhino, pangolins, et cetera) found by people lying around. My Ministry is considering a Statutory Instrument which expands the provision to make it comprehensive and consistent with current issues such as whistle blowing on poisoning, pollution, setting of traps, among others.
On the issue of the deterrent custodian sentence e.g for illegal possession of cyanide, this will be taken into consideration as my Ministry moves to review the current Act.
Mr Speaker Sir, the last recommendation refers to the prioritisation of law enforcement in the elephant policy and elephant management plan. Zimbabwe has an elephant management plan for each of the four major elephant range areas, which include the Zambezi Valley, Sebungwe, South-East Lowveld and North West Matabeleland. The Elephant Management Plan (EMP) recognises mechanisms in place for enhanced law enforcement within the country and also the fact that Parks and Wildlife Act establishes it as the lead agency in elephant management, that is, protection, research and monitoring establishes it as the lead agency in law enforcement.
The EMP advocate for deployment of highly trained rapid response anti-poaching units in high threat areas and also prioritises the following:
· Enhanced informer system;
· Enhance community involvement;
· Reduced illegal settlements;
· Enhanced international and transboundary co-operation. I thank you, Mr Speaker Sir.