Whose line is it Anyway?

The subject of

egion>Zimbabwe at a dinner conversation is as inevitable as the setting sun. Various scenarios are passionately played out of what the future might or might not hold. By the end of a meaningful (or meaningless, fence dependant) debate one thing is for certain; the positive or negative political landscapes that have been painted for the future all have one common denominator, and that is change.

This brings about new waves of arguments over who will bring about the change and where we are concerned what that change means for the tourism industry. Currently only a very few tour operators and hotels are managing to provide world class service. In the mean time in areas where there are no tourist arrivals there is no control. And in an uncontrolled environment where livelihoods are desperately clutching at straws for survival any wildlife or fauna and flora suffer, understandably, as a result.

Therefore I would like to propose an open debate. Each passing day Zimbabwe’s wildlife is being poached by the citizens of neighbouring countries who are finding the un-policed parks a poaching holiday. Zimbabwean locals looking for a meal also run amok as do overseas hunters who have paid a premium for being there, which, if done in a controlled environment, would benefit tourism but for now the hunting industry is in the hands of party chefs who are not known for their conservationism. Before Zimbabwe resembles Mozambique, where a bug on your windscreen is a rarity, a line needs to be drawn. The question is though, whose line is it anyway?

Perhaps a review of stakeholders is needed to see who plays a role in Zimbabwe’s heritage. There is the minority population of ‘Europeans’ that some estimates place as low as 10,000. The whole Zimbabwean population was pegged at roughly 12 million at the most recent census. For arguments sake we’ll put the European population at 80,000 and the whole population, given that Beitbridge is busier than First Street, at 8 million. Europeans therefore make up 1% of the population. Arguably they are an influential percent. These stakeholders depend on the tourism industry for their livelihoods and for them it is important to keep the tourist’s attention with wildlife and so they actively make an effort to maintain fences, pumps and assist Parks and Wildlife whenever possible. They might not be conservationists but they become so by default and in doing so protect the country’s wildlife where they have concerns. Beyond that they have no control and their daily lives are akin to scenes from Swan Lake with graceful tip toeing and golden handshakes that safeguard their interests.

This leaves the much larger National Parks and the remaining populace. Joblessness and empty shelves are driving hordes of urbanites back into the countryside to forage for a living. It cannot be expected of them to desist from poaching because they are not doing so for commercial gain.

This line drawing task then slowly snakes its way to the relevant authorities. Parks and Wildlife exist to conserve Zimbabwe’s heritage. Conservation is the act of conserving, prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss of wildlife. It is also the official supervision of rivers, forests, and other natural resources in order to preserve and protect them through prudent management. Clearly current circumstance has made this an unenviable task. Lack of fuel and supplies makes effective management impossible. Once a regular feature of the landscape foot patrols no longer go out as rangers are asked to provide their own food, find their own transport to parks and are given a pittance for pay.

If Parks and Wildlife are no longer capable, government should intervene but it would seem they are content on looking East. Perhaps when the Chinese come they will bring a new supply of the Big 5 with them and plant Msasas and Acacia trees to once again dot our landscape. Common sense though, tells me they are here for something else.

It would seem that Zimbabwe’s wildlife is for the time being on hold until the economy revives itself, jobs are created and stability restored, and in the mean time, no line will be drawn to stop the abuse of wildlife concessions and National Parks. The question is who will bring about change because hope is wearing thin.

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