Zimbabwe hosted the first United Nations and Africa Union summit on wildlife. The country is seeking permission to sell its $600 million stock of elephant ivory and rhino horns to fund conservation programs. Those living near game parks have other issues they want addressed.
In some parts of Africa, elephant populations are in decline, mainly because poachers shoot the animals for their valuable ivory tusks.
Zimbabwe has no such problem. In fact, the country’s parks authority says the elephant population is up to 84,000.
That may warm the hearts of wildlife conservationists, but people who live near Zimbabwe’s game parks have a different perspective.
Gertrude Dube lives in Mansuma village, on the edge of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s biggest wildlife reserve.
Her main problem is with hyenas, who have eaten all seven of the goats she used to own.
But elephants make life difficult too, she says.
“We love and appreciate wild animals. But some like lions and elephants are dangerous. When people hear of elephants in the area, even school children fear going to school, as they kill,” Dube said.
This week, Zimbabwe is hosting delegates to the UN/AU Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls, about two hours drive from Hwange National Park. Conflict between humans and wildlife is one of the subjects on the agenda.
But Zimbabwean officials have a different focus than Dube. Zimbabwe and its neighbors Botswana and Namibia are home to over 60 percent of the world’s elephants. The countries want to end the international ban on trading in raw ivory, imposed 30 years ago in hopes of protecting elephant populations.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the country has about $600 million worth of elephant ivory and rhino horns in stock, mostly taken from animals that died of natural causes.
“If we are allowed to dispose the same under agreed parameters, the revenue derived there from will suffice to finance our operational conservation efforts for the next two decades. We encourage a process where accruing benefits from natural resources are fairly and equitably shared among communities living within wildlife areas,” Mnangagwa said.
That would certainly be good news for Dube and others who frequently lose their crops and cattle to marauding elephants and other forms of wildlife.
The two-day conference ended Tuesday.