Report of people killed by elephants around the Livingstone Game Park in the last three weeks, is most regrettable and in effect it is evidence of conservation policy failure, says Green Party President Peter Sinkamba.
An elephant is reported to have killed a man on Thursday this week. The dead man was cycling home after a fishing expedition in Livinstone’s Simonga. This brings the total number to 20 of people killed by elephants in the last three weeks.
Sinkamba said human-wildlife conflicts around Livingstone Game Park have escalated in the area due to policy-related problems such as encroachment; poor wildlife conservation strategies; poor livestock , crop and fishing strategies, and others.
He said these conflicts can be reduced by providing policy that guarantees adequate habitat to wild animals, maintenance of appropriate physical barriers to wild animals, active guarding of the game park and crops, and stopping of degradation of habitat quality.
“Man-animal conflict often results not because animals encroaching human territories but vice versa. Often, man thinks animals have encroached in his territory when the opposite is the case,” Sinkamba said.
He said the problem is that man’s thinking is rooted in anthropocentrism.
“Anthropocentrism is a school of thought that could be equaled to Dr. Kaunda’s humanism ideology? which is man-centered. The underlying belief is that man’s needs must override competing needs of other species. This school of thought is not compatible with the contemporary tenets of sustainable development where man’s current needs must be balanced with the needs of other species and future generations” Sinkamba said.
He said in the era of sustainable development, man-centered ideology is a misplaced school of thought.
“Remember, we are talking about the conflict between man and endangered species. These species are endangered not because of natural causes alone but by and large, because man has failed to preserve and protect them through his selfish, direct, and indirect anthropogenic activities. Man’s attitude is destructive, and usually for pleasure and gain,” Sinkamba charged.
Sinkamba gave as an example, of a Government decision in 2006 to grant authority to a foreign investor, Legacy Holding, to construct a hotel and a golf course in Livingstone Game Park, which if executed would have blocked the transnational elephant corridor which these animals use when they trek to and from Zimbabwe and Botswana.
“If I did not block that so-called Legacy Holding development in 2006, today, elephants would have been confined to Zimbabwe and Botswana. Otherwise, so many human lives would have been lost because the elephants were going to forcefully fight for their space and kill any person found along their corridor,” he said.
He also gave another example of the latest decision by President Donald Trump to lift of the ban on elephant trophy hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe, which charged was for pleasure and gain.
“This is typical thinking which is rooted in anthropocentrism. Why on earth should a right thinking leader unleash his shameless hunters to come to Zambia to hunt elephants when we are struggling to upscale our stocks which have been depleted from over 100,000 heads in 1980s to less than 30,000 at the moment? Why hasn’t he unleashed them to go and hunt polar bears in Alaska, which too are endangered species?” he charged.
Sinkamba said proper policy management practices have to be crafted and enforced, like conservation education for local population, resettlement of villages, curbing grazing by livestock and domestic animals in park areas, to preserve the wild animals. He said policy to assure provision and availability of natural water and space, including less or no disturbance from the tourists needs to be put in place.
He also said that Government should take bold steps to remove encroachments and, if necessary, cancel title deeds already granted in areas that have encroached into game parks. He challenged Government to initiate acquisition proceedings not only to preserve and protect wildlife and its corridors but human life and property as well.
Sinkamba also challenged Government to consider providing adequate and immediate compensation to affected families, in deserving cases.