Reflections on My Trip to Kafue National Park – A Call to Action by United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz

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The bush pigs of Kafue National Park
The bush pigs of Kafue National Park

My visit this past April to Kafue National Park, the largest park in Zambia and the second largest park in all of Africa, was wonderful and alarming at the same time. I was very much looking forward to this visit because Zambian wildlife is one of my favorite features of your beautiful country. When I was Deputy Chief of Mission at our Embassy in Zimbabwe more than 10 years ago, it was the unique wildlife and ecosystem that sparked my family’s dream to return to southern Africa. But my trip to Kafue National Park, while pleasing to me as a nature-lover, was a wake-up call to the tragedy of wildlife poaching in Zambia. And it will take all of us working together to put an end to this devastating scourge.

Alarming Poaching Crisis

I had primed myself to view some of Zambia’s majestic elephants while I was at Kafue National Park but was disappointed not to see a single one. Later, in talking to Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) officials, to wildlife protection NGOs, and to community members in Kafue, I learned that the Kafue National Park and Game Management Area elephant population is estimated to have been cut almost in half over the past five years due to poaching. It is no secret that the poaching crisis has affected all of southern Africa and that poachers operate within Zambia’s borders. Informal surveys estimate there are no more than 2,000 elephants left within the park boundaries. The criminals who kill this most regal of Zambia’s creatures, taking only its tusks, should be sought out and prosecuted to the fullest extent of Zambia’s law. Zambia’s elephants, rhinos, and other treasured wildlife are for all Zambians to enjoy and appreciate. More, elephants and other wildlife can be a centerpiece of a thriving and profitable tourism industry, employing tens of thousands of Zambians, but only if that wildlife is well-protected.

Even as we drove along the Lusaka-Kaoma road, which lies inside the boundaries of the park, I couldn’t help but think of how Kafue National Park’s wildlife is at risk. Cars, buses, and trucks were speeding along the road. Later, when I talked to community members, I learned that it is not uncommon for leopards and other prized animals to be hit and killed by this speeding traffic.

Encroachment is also a major problem. At one point, ZAWA officials showed us settlements and farmland encroaching on the park boundaries and pointed to the deforestation this encroachment results in, reducing the habitat for the wildlife.

How can we reconcile the needs of human progress and development with the need to protect Zambia’s wilderness and keep its animals alive? The answer lies in tourism that creates jobs and revenue for the communities living near Zambia’s national parks and game management areas. This is also the answer to reducing poaching. These communities must see the wildlife for the precious and renewable resource it is.

An important part of my visit to Kafue National Park was meeting with ZAWA officials and seeing first-hand the challenges they face. Charged with managing a huge area, often with very few resources and limited manpower, these officers work long days in the bush, living under difficult conditions, yet remain highly committed. I congratulate ZAWA and its officers for their commitment and dedication to protecting Zambia’s wildlife under such harsh circumstances and in the face of rising poaching pressures.

But ZAWA can’t do it alone; it needs support from all of us. There are many organizations working hard to support ZAWA in the Kafue area, such as Game Rangers International, and I applaud them and others who have risen to this challenge. Now let’s get other community members, NGOs, the Zambian government, the international community, and others working together to support ZAWA’s efforts to protect wildlife in Kafue National Park and throughout the country.

Communities Must Benefit from Protecting Wildlife

Part of the challenge for elephants and other wildlife in and around Kafue National Park is that the local community does not appear to benefit at present from the protection of wildlife or from the tourism in the park. I was dismayed at the condition of facilities in a Game Management Area community close to the main entrance gate of the park. Together with community leaders, I visited a primary school with two small buildings and only four teachers serving more than 400 children! There were not nearly enough desks and chairs for all of the students, and the buildings were in desperate need of repair. Community members said the only financial benefit they have seen from the park in recent years was support received from hunting license revenues coming from the Game Management Area, not from tourism generated within the park itself. Hunting can play a positive role in conservation but tourism, by promoting the preservation of Kafue’s wildlife, can and should play a much bigger role in improving the welfare of the communities near the Park.

Community members in and around national parks must play an active, positive role if wildlife is to be saved from extinction and form the basis for a tourism industry from which all Zambians will benefit. ZAWA, NGOs, the Zambian government, and international community must engage with local communities to determine how Zambia’s parks and tourism can benefit local communities so that they are part of the wildlife protection solution. Despite Victoria Falls and some of the largest and potentially best national parks in Africa, Zambia attracts only a few hundred thousand tourists a year. It has the potential to attract millions who would contribute to the Zambian economy and to the benefit of all Zambians but most especially to the local communities that are home to this precious natural heritage.

The Time is Now

I encourage the government to look for new ways to support the communities around its national parks, and I encourage all stakeholders to work together with the Zambian government and communities to support their efforts.

We have a chance to turn the tragic poaching crisis trend around and for Zambia to establish a framework under which both local communities and the entire economy will profit from Zambia’s wilderness treasures for generations to come. But the time to act is now. Once elephants are nearly extinct or gone from Zambia, it will be too late. We must all work together with ZAWA to combat this crisis.

Reliable poaching statistics need to be regularly available so that we can properly address the challenge, and so that people around the world can be educated about the regional poaching crisis. By raising awareness, we can encourage additional funding to ZAWA, wildlife protection NGOs, and others so that we have a fighting chance to stop these crimes from continuing. In closing, I continue to be fascinated by Zambia’s natural beauty. Though we saw no elephants, on one game drive in the park we did spot a leopard. It was the highlight of the trip. This is what tourists pay to see: animals in their natural habitats. To experience Africa’s nature is what motivates people to fly to Zambia from across the world. This is Zambia’s greatest natural resource, which – if protected – can help provide a bright economic future for all Zambians.

35 COMMENTS

  1. He is white- unless you are , you have to give him his respect. Without whom you are nothing.
    Listen read and learn- as we are all genetically born interior to them

    Thanks
    Bb2014

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    • This is a good and factual report. Unfortunately this will fall on deaf ears as the minister in charge Kapata is not educated enough to appreciate the destruction to the animal population that is going on. Instead she is issuing more hunting licences on top of the poaching that’s going on

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    • Swine. And ‘interior’ means inside. You mean inferior, but as your shallow and moronic reasoning shows, you are too daft to know the difference

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    • Bwana Ambassador – please provide grants (dollars) for these grand ideas! And scholarship for people for study eco-management, etc. Budgetary support to ZAWA will be welcome.

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    • Unfortunately, Mr Ambassador, you are talking to a brick wall in the name PF. They would rather give licenses to the poachers in exchange for a case of Jameson…Pilato already told us

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  2. I hope the very dull Jean Kapata is reading this; who has utterly no clue what is on the ground if the elephant population has been depleted only god knows about the other open Savanna animals like lions…instead of investing in ZAWA guards training, equipment and guns we are busy wasting money on pointless things like surveillance equipment.

    There are people out there who can dream of the jewels we are blessed with.

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    • Thats what it means to have illiterates in government…. the country is on auto-pilot.

      From a clueless president to illiterate ministers

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  3. If you have ears, listen. This guy is giving a direct response to Kapata ‘s Liongate scandal policy.

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  4. We have enough animals in Zambia. Eve kabili kwao kulibe nyama eee. I can see mos of you above are not Zambian-based, so you have no clue about issues affecting Zambia.

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  5. Depletion of elephants population happened between 2011 and 2014 when Masebo was minister of tourism. Facts do not lie or mislead
    Please save us time to sleep.

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    • This is very true, I think if you go in the hunting areas you will find that all the animals have migrated there as there is more safety and protection for them than in the national parks. Masebo to blame, she listened to all the promises made by NGO’s and anti hunters suck as Lionaid and banned the hunting. ZAWA then suffered as Lionaid fell back on their promises and never gave ZAWA anything! Go and see the hunting areas and private game farms and see how they are thriving, they spend money to protect these animals and so the animals love it there!

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  6. Currently theres no leadership on Wild life in Zambia. They are all too concerned with their bellies and bank accounts. You have an individual overseeing the ministry of tourism with the highest qualification of enrolled nurse or practical nurse with no working experience in the field.
    Take a look at the loin populations in Zambia as at December 2012 and see how dumb and uncaring the leadership has become;

    -Liuwa plains < 4
    -Sioma Ngwezi ,< 50
    -Kafue 386
    -Nsumbu < 50
    -Luangwa 574
    -Mid Zambezi 755

    Some Luangwa and Mid Zambezi prides tend to roam between Zambia and Malawi, and Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique respectively.

    It's insane to allow hunting down the species on a decline and urgent remedies are required as in yesterday

    Source data by: lionalert.org

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    • Zambia is like a sewage pond where the floatsam, jetsam, scum and turds rise to the top.

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  7. @ Mushota. You outrightly testify that we Africans are born inferior than the whites. Real inferiority complex at play. What extra do they possess. Once a woman always a woman.

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    • Mushota has said it all. Imagine if the white man never set foot here, would have the animals survived? We would have killed them all in the name of umunani. I like the white man; they are smart, brilliant, forward looking, developmental etc. They are just a marvel. But the blacks; just witchcraft, backwardness, docile and just stup!d.

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    • @jamakudi: You are one BIG FCUKING RITARD I have ever come across! If you feel so inferior to Whites, like your fellow RETARD @ Mushota, please do NOT generalize your STVP!D!TY.

      Since you are such [email protected], let me remind you that Africans, and INDIGENOUS peoples everywhere, have lived with the wild since man showed up on this earth. For millennia they learned how to “harvest” the wild in a very responsible way until a few hundred years ago when a Whiteman showed up. Since then our natural resources (animals, birds, Timber, etc) are all in trouble. WHY?

      We looked at wildlife as a source of food, and they looked at it as a source of RICHES and for SPORT. Tell me if you ever heard of Africans going out to kill animals for SPORT before a Whiteman came to Africa?

      Imbecile!

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  8. I HAVEN’T YET READ THE ARTICLE. BUT, AFTER MY INITIAL COMMENT I AM STRAIGHT GOING INTO READING IT BECAUSE THE AMBASSADOR HAS TOUCHED ONE OF THE ECONOMIC SECTORS IN WHICH I HAVE REAL SERIOUS INTEREST. MY SENTIMENT IS IN ZAMBIA THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM IS ALWAYS GIVEN A MINISTER WHO IS NOT REASONABLY EDUCATED AND WITH LITTLE OR NO INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE AND THEREFORE, NO IMAGINATION OF WHAT VISITORS TO THE COUNTRY EXPECT IN ORDER TO TICK ZAMBIA AS A TRULY TOURIST DESTINATION. JUST BEING A PEACEFUL NATION IS NOT ENOUGH BECAUSE TOURISTS WOULD GO AND THEY DO GO TO EVEN MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRIES AS LONG AS THERE ARE THING THAT ATTRACT THEM TO THOSE DESTINATIONS. WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS APPOINTING A MINISTER OF TOURISM I WOULD RATHER HE/SHE APPOINTS A HIGHLY EDUCATED AND SOMEONE WHO HAVE LIVED…

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    • [email protected]
      …OVERSEAS. SAY EUROPE, USA, UK, JAPAN OR OTHERS. I AM SAYING THIS BECAUSE IN THESE REGIONS TOURISM SECTOR EARNS THEM SEVERAL BILLION POUNDS A YEAR BECAUSE THEY TAKE TOURISM VERY SERIOUSLY. THEREFORE, MINISTRY OF TOURISM IS ALWAYS DIRECTLY/INDIRECTLY LINKED WITH MINISTRIES SUCH AS TRANSPORT, NATURE AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION, EDUCATION, IMMIGRATION (AND OTHERS). A MINISTER OF TOURISM WITH LITTLE EDUCATION AND NO INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE WILL HAVE A TOUGH TIME UNDERSTANDING ISSUES OF TOURISM CONTEXT. THE MINISTER WILL HAVE NO INNOVATION IDEAS IN HIS/HER HEAD. HENCE, POOR DECISION-MAKING.

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    • “Cars, buses, and trucks were speeding along the road. Later, when I talked to community members, I learned that it is not uncommon for leopards and other prized animals to be hit and killed by this speeding traffic.”

      “This is what tourists pay to see: animals in their natural habitats. To experience Africa’s nature is what motivates people to fly to Zambia from across the world. This is Zambia’s greatest natural resource, which – if protected – can help provide a bright economic future for all Zambians.”

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    • @7.2 I HAVE COPIED AND PASTED 2 PARAGRAPHS. PARA 1, ZAMBIAN DECISION-MAKERS LACK REASONING. THEY KNOW TOO WELL THAT THOUSANDS OF ANIMALS HAVE BEEN KILLED BY TRAINS AND MOTORISTS BUT THEY DON’T JUST CARE. GO TO BOTSWANA ALL STRETCHES OF ROADS WITH ANIMAL (WILD OR FARM) HAVE BEEN FENCED OFF TO PROTECT ANIMALS.

      PARA 2, IT SHOULD GIVE A HOME WORK TO OUR DECISION-MAKERS WHY BOTSWANA RECEIVES UP TO 2MILLION VISITORS PER YEAR FOR THEIR OKAVANGO WETLANDS AND YET OUR BANGWEULU WETLANDS WHICH HAVE MORE AND BEATIFUL NATURAL FACILITIES THAN THEIR OKAVANGO MAY ONLY RECEIVE 30 PER YEAR. I HAVE A SOLUTION TO THESE ISSUE BUT NOT UNTIL I MAKE MY PLANNED BUSINESS PRESENTATIONS IN EUROPE WHICH ARE PART OF THE SOLUTIONS I WILL NOT OFFER THEM HERE. I WILL START WRITING THEM IN THE MEDIA AFTERWARDS.

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  9. Today, I posted some lovely pictures of elephants on my Facebook page. My heart sunk when I read this story.

    Clearly ZAWA has failed and efforts under Ministry of Tourism will not yield results. What the Government must do is to send in the Zambia Army and National Service with shoot to kill orders!

    Perhaps, the American Embassy must start thinking of ways of how the American Government can help. Wild life conservation is no longer a matter sovereignty and territorial boarders, it is now an international concern and effort!

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  10. Mr Ambassador
    When the economy of Zambia only hinges on copper mining the other sectors suffer.
    The worst thing the PF govt has done is to attach ZAWA to GRZ.This will bring inefficiency in the operations of the already struggling ZAWA as you witnessed.
    Party cadres are appointed tourism ministers who do not care about what it takes to lure tourists to Zambia like the Kenyans did.
    There is a mountain to climb in this regard from all stakeholders.It’s a pity you never saw an ???? in kafue but try lower Zambezi and compare how the privately owned park is run compared to GRZ.Thankyou.

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  11. I hear the ambassador and agree. What the problem is lies in the general ignorance among most Zambians. Why we have such ignorance in government is because those are the average Zambians. We won’t see progress without a revolutionary change.

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    • AND THAT REVOLUTION MUST START AT NURSERY SCHOOL LEVEL TO EDUCATE THE PUPILS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WILD LIFE AND NATURE IN GENERAL. A SUBJECT CALLED TOURISM MUST BE INTRODUCED RIGHT FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY LEVELS. A FEW INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGES SUCH AS MANDOLIN, SPANISH, FRENCH AND GERMANY MUST BE INTRODUCED TO EQUIP ZAMBIA WITH ANY LINGUAL EVENTUALITY WHEN FOREIGN VISITORS VISIT OUR COUNTRY. A SERIOUS TRANSPORT MINISTER MUST OUTLAW UTUBESENI/UTUMBABULA AND INTRODUCE SERIOUS BIG PURPOSELY-BUILT COMMUTER TRANSPORT BUSES WHICH HIGER MOTOR COMPANY CAN PROUDLY INTRODUCE ON THE MARKET OF ZAMBIA BY BUILDING OR ASSEMBLING THEM RIGHT IN ZAMBIA:
      ****

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  12. @Mushota and Jamakudi,please keep that inferiority to yourselves and stop distracting people from debating the real and important issue. To the good things white people brought also came bad ones!! White people brought guns and commercial poaching for ivory which initiated the wanton killing of elephants. How many elephants were being killed by bows and arrow or spears? Look at the Basarawa (Bushmen)! Don’t they live side by side with wild animals? We agree the Diplomat touched on an important subject and it is a wake up call to all of us who love Zambia and nature! We need to do more to protect the entire ecosystem if we have to enjoy the beauty that God has endowed our country with. And then the Diplomat should not just talk to the gallery,follow channels and address government!

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  13. Jean Kapata, ZAWA and Zambia Tourism Board! What is your stake on this. I would be very embarrassed if I were you. This is what happens when you run out of ideas and start coming up with lies to conceal the real truth. They say the truth always prevails. Just admit that you all have no clue of what you are doing. Long gone are the days when hiring Ba Bululu mattered but we have come to realize it is costing the economy, Zambians and mother Zambia. If you want to stay in these positions at least go back to school or take courses that will upgrade your learning skills. You can be hired in these positions but at least have the qualifications that will enable you to make the right choices to benefit our tourism economy and not your pockets. This is very alarming and we should all be scared.

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  14. The problem with the current leadership is that they think foreign investors will suddenly just come to Zambia. They don’t realise that they have to invest in the tourism infrastructure. KK built international air ports at Kasaba bay in Nsumbu and Mfuwe in Luangwa to attract investment into these areas. Now these structures are dilapidated despite their potential. All we know is hunting and no preservation at all. They should learn to consult when they run out of ideas. They could easily fence off areas that have huge numbers of animals along the road like in Botswana.

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  15. There was a serious water crisis at Mfuwe International Airport not too long ago for over a month. Visitors want to go where it is generally safe and this is what the people in charge of tourism don’t understand. That is why most countries market themselves as “we are a safe destination.” It was revealed not a single toilet was working and passengers were asked to use buckets to draw water for use in the toilets. Its embarrassing that a passenger should be subjected to this and can possibly catch a disease. In this case we are looking at Typhoid which can be a national epidemic. Zambia is slowly plummeting as we have no proper schools, hospital, universities and even airports. Once PF understand this critical crisis we are in is when we will start moving forward as a nation. Yangu ba PF

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  16. @12, 13 and 14 YOU ARE ALL RIGHT. CERTAIN POSITIONS REQUIRE THAT ONE HAS NECESSARY EDUCATION IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND CERTAIN ISSUES. AT THE SAME TIME OUR LEADERS SHOULD START BELIEVING IN THEIR PEOPLE AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO SET UP BUSINESSES IN WHICHEVER WAY POSSIBLE, EG, REMOVING CORRUPTION, GIVING CITIZENS MEANINGFUL INCENTIVES, ETC. I KNOW THAT THE GOVT IS TRYING. BUT TIME FOR TRYING LONG WENT. GRZ MUST JUST DO IT. ENCOURAGE PRACTICALLY ZAMBIANS PARTNERING WITH FOREIGN INVESTORS RATHER THAN INVESTORS SETTING UP BUSINESSES ALONE. THIS HAS JOBS AND EMPLOYMENT SECURITY IN IT.

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    • IN ZAMBIA WE SEEM TO BE VERY GOOD AT DESTRUCTION THAN PRESERVATION AND NURTURING WHAT WE WERE BLESSED WITH. EG, I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY IN THE ABUNDANCE OF ZAMBIANS INDISCRIMINATELY, CUT DOWN TREES FOR MAKING CHARCOAL. EVERY TIME I GO TO ZAMBIA I GET SHOCKED AT THE RATE OUR FORESTS ARE BEING DEPLETED AND THE GOVTs LOOK ON. WHY CAN’T COAL BE USED INSTEAD OF CUTTING DOWN TREES, INDISCRIMINATELY? CAOL IS ABUNDANT IN ZAMBIA AND HAS LONGER LIFE THAN CHARCOAL AS SAME PIECES CAN BE RE-LIT MANY TIMES. THE SAME COAL IS USED IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES FOR HEATING AND COOKING. WHY IS THE GOVT BLIND TO THIS AS IF WE HAVE TO IMPORT COAL? OR AGAIN DO WE NEED A WHITE MAN TO COME AND TELL US?

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  17. One trip by Eric Schultz and he comes back with an assessment report of the status and what needs to be done to improve the situation. I can attest that the Zambian ministers in charge of tourism do not know how to assess the situation for improvement. Tourism ministers should visit parks and tourist attractions in neighboring countries disguised as an ordinary tourist rather than with full ministerial entourage. The minister must find out how others attract and treat their tourists and get them to go there rather than Zambia. Bottom-line is that people living near the game parks MUST benefit through jobs and training to protect their money or economic source (Animals). Otherwise they will collaborate with poachers to put food on the table. It is not rocket science – JUST DO IT.

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  18. Where are the solutions? The fact is ZAWA has failed, despite extensive funding from the Zambian taxpayer and e.g. Norway on top of hunting licensing and park fees. Why champion throwing good money after bad?

    The problem is not that it “appears” the local community is not benefiting from the park. The problem is that the local community IS NOT BENEFITING, so eventually they try to get what they can due to life’s necessities. Obviously. So why not try to apply valuable conservation business lessons and data from the USA and its international partners instead of sounding like one is talking to a country of people with the IQ of young children? “It will take all of us working together to put an end to this devastating scourge.”? The US Ambassador should be respected, but it’s…

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  19. That’s the result of putting carders and marketeers in charge. Let experienced pipo rum the parks

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  20. Jean Kapata and her entourage think they can make decisions alone but forget stakeholders have a say and not simply what they cough and spit outs. Every blogger is entitled to his or her opinion, including communities, businesses, NGO,’s, (DMO) Destination Marketing Organisations, tourists etc. We shouldn’t be intimidated by them saying the decision is final because nothing is final. Collaboration is very important, we can learn a lot from everyone in this mentioned group. Locals know their surroundings especially in rural areas and can offer significant input on what goes on such as poaching or animal behaviour and activities in their region. This is what ZAWA and Kapata don’t understand. Locals need to be involved in decision making which can benefit communities. Its time for change.

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