It is my humble honour that I stand before you today as we commemorate the World Wildlife Day and the Africa Environment Day. As the Chair of the African Union, Zimbabwe is happy to join rest of Africa in commemorating the Africa Environment Day today, 5 March 2015. The day was proclaimed by the then Organisation of African Unity in 2002 to raise awareness on the pressing environmental challenges facing the continent. Furthermore, on 20 December 2013, at its 68th Session, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 3rd of March, as a World Wildlife Day, a day set aside to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. We are jointly celebrating these important days as they are interlinked and they fall in the same month.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Zimbabwe has a rich and successful history of wildlife conservation which dates back to pre-colonial times. A blend of tradition and modern methods of conservation has made Zimbabwe a respected world leader in wildlife conservation. To date, wildlife forms the cornerstone of Zimbabwe's tourism industry, with vast opportunities to view animals in their natural habitats in gazetted protected conservation areas, communal areas under the Communal Areas Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) and on private land. Reduce
Zimbabwe has some of the best wildlife policies in the whole world that help the country to sustainably manage and maintain its rich biodiversity. For example Zimbabwe’s legislation is in Category 1 of CITES and therefore meets all the requirements of CITES implementation. At local level, species management plans are being developed and updated to ensure the management of our rich biodiversity. Currently efforts are underway to prepare a renewed Elephant Management Plan which is important in our conservation of the important species. The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, in consultation with various technical experts and stakeholders, is in the process of reviewing other management plans for specific species to ensure their continued survival.
We are also in the early stages of revamping the CAMPFIRE model so as to strengthen the programme and enhance proceeds to beneficiaries, the communities that bear the brunt of living close to wildlife areas.
Zimbabwe, however, continues to face a mixture of challenges in wildlife conservation particularly poaching of our wildlife, perpetrated by syndicates linked to organised crime and illegal wildlife trade. I would like to reaffirm that we will not allow poachers to continue their inhumane killing of our endangered species. God gave us the power to protect our wildlife and we will fight the war with all our might because our wildlife forms part of the natural resources and wealth that must benefit the people of Zimbabwe.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am reliably informed that our water bodies are also under attack from poachers. Our own Lake Kariba is under siege from fish poachers who have resorted to illegal harvesting in breeding areas, unlicensed individuals manufacturing Kapenta rigs and fishing without permits, use of illegal fishing gear as well as unscrupulous people who have resorted to buying fish from kapenta rigs before they have been declared to their owners. Such practices cannot be allowed to continue and constitute theft. I call upon law enforcers to deal ruthlessly with all those involved in such practices.
Also disheartening are reports that licensed operators are sending their crew to go and fish in restricted areas, affecting the sustainability of the fishery.
In 2014 Zimbabwe experienced a very unfortunate development where the United States of America through its Fish and Wildlife Service unilaterally banned the imports of elephant trophies from hunts conducted in Zimbabwe by its nationals. This development has dented our conservation in that a significant proportion of revenue for conservation came from these hunters. Moreover, Wildlife is the backbone of our tourism industry and any adverse effect on our wildlife will have ripple effects particularly to our tourism sector and ultimately our economy. As such we have not sat back and folded our hands. We continue to engage the United States of America through its Fish and Wildlife Service with a view of finding a sustainable solution as well as engaging other players in the sector.
Our elephant herd remains large. Recent counts revealed that we have an excess of 83,000 elephants in Zimbabwe. This figure surpasses the carrying capacity of the land and therefore there is a need to sustainably reduce the population. The amount of ecological damage caused by this overpopulation has the potential to destroy the very habitat which these elephants rely on. Our detractors seem to ignore the fact that the overpopulation is a serious issue which needs to be addressed. It is also surprising to note that most of these people who purport to be experts in wildlife conservation come from countries that have failed to manage their own wildlife. Surely, what can they teach us if they have failed to do the same in their own backyard?
Turning to the commemorations of the Africa Environment Day, Ladies and Gentlemen, Zimbabwe value this day which serves as a platform to promote an in-depth understanding on what communities, civic society, industry and other sectors should do towards environmental protection. This year’s Africa Environment Day commemoration is being held under the theme “Youth and the Environment” with particular focus on the role of the youths in tackling waste management challenges in the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, this theme seeks to promote participation of the youths in environmental management initiatives. Zimbabwe calls for great mobilization of the young people to play a key role in overcoming the waste management challenges we are facing so as to ensure a better future for Africa. In the same vein, I would like to call on our young people to commit themselves to activities that promote sustainable waste management practices by communities, schools, tertiary institutions and corporates. You have the energy and creativity to shape a sustainable future. I call upon everyone to ensure that he or she is living in a clean environment.
The issue of waste management needs collective action. We should all respect our constitutional right to a clean, safe and healthy environment by reducing the volume of waste generated at any time, through re-using and recycling. There are innumerable benefits that are accruable from sustainable waste management. Bio-degradable waste can be a good source of organic manure. At home, we can reduce the amount of food waste. Other forms of waste such as metal, paper and plastic waste must be re-used and recycled. There are communities that have positively transformed their livelihoods through various waste management projects.
I urge all authorities to create smart partnerships with the corporate world, NGOs and other stakeholders so that they will be able to deal with waste management effectively and provide adequate facilities for their management.
In concluding, let me remind you that the year 2015 marked a momentous year for Zimbabwe in its assumption of the African Union Chair. This also came as we had assumed the SADC Chair in 2014. It is therefore crucial that we take this opportunity to lead by example and show the rest of Africa and the world in general that Zimbabwe is capable of managing its wildlife as well as protecting its environment.
I thank you!