Tourism sector calls for wildlife protection

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STAKEHOLDERS in the tourism and safari industry have implored Government to closely monitor human activities such as mining in wildlife areas to preserve the environment and promote tourism.

The stakeholders who included environmentalists, wildlife conservationists, safari and tour operators, hoteliers, heads of Government departments and traditional leaders held a virtual meeting on Zoom yesterday to deliberate on issues affecting the environment and tourism. The meeting was organised by the Association for Tourism in Hwange and coordinated by Ms Elisabeth Pasalk-Valerio of Gwango Lodge in Dete.

It was inspired by recent claims that some foreign firms were exploring for coal in Sinamatela and Robins Camp areas on the edge of Hwange National Park. The issue was first raised by Bhejane Trust whose rhino monitoring team reportedly encountered some workmen exploring for coal without an environmental impact assessment, as no consultation had been done. Speaking at the meeting, stakeholders said any mining activities within game parks will lead to environmental damage as well as cause devastating effects on tourism, economy and also increase human-wildlife conflict.

They called for consultation with local communities and operators for sustainable conservation. “For exploration work to start, there should be an environmental impact assessment where stakeholders should be consulted. In terms of the Wildlife Act no one is allowed to carry mining activities within the national park unless with consent and permit from Environment and Mining line ministries while special grant covers an area already designated for concessions. Current mining activities happening in the park are illegal and there should be an investigation because you can only explore with an EIA,” said Mr Renius Magumula from Hwange.

Mr Daniel Kuvawoga of Painted Dogs Conservancy urged investors to consult people on the ground before starting projects to protect wildlife. Ms Julia Pierini implored authorities to monitor human activities.

“Hwange is a key conservation area and there seem to be an increase in mining activities in key biodiversity areas including Chimanimani, Zambezi and this is concerning,” she said.

Chief Nekatambe of Dete said encroaching into the game parks was fuelling human-wildlife conflict.

“We are worried as traditional leaders because people have come complaining. Let’s engage with our listening President I am sure he can cancel these special grants,” he said.

Centre for Natural Resources Governance executive director Mr Farai Maguwu concurred saying: “Encroachment into wildlife habitats is causing human wildlife conflict. Animals are distressed and that affects their behaviour and makes them agitated. Preserving these animals makes business sense.”–

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