Decline in wildlife offences pleasing

THE revelation by the Ministry of Tourism and Arts that the country has recorded a decline in wildlife-related offences is a positive sign that the biodiversity is being protected from extinction.
Against this background, we commend the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) for a good job although more needs to be done to bring wildlife crime to negligible levels.
Bringing sanity to the sector means more clean money for the country as a result of legal wildlife trade.
The communities where these animals are found would equally benefit and ultimately ensure environmental protection.
What society needs to know is that the booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Zambia’s precious biodiversity, robbing the country of natural heritage and pushing whole species towards extinction.
Wildlife, traditionally, refers to undomesticated animal species, but has come to include all plants, fungi and other organisms that grow or live in the wild, in areas where humans are non-existent.
Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems, deserts, forests, plains, grasslands and other areas, including the most developed urban sites, all of which have distinct forms of wildlife.
While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by human factors, scientists agree that much wildlife is affected by human activities.
Humans have historically tended to separate civilisation from wildlife in a number of ways, including the legal, social and moral sense.
Some animals, however, have adapted to suburban environments.
These include domesticated cats, dogs, mice and gerbils.
Some religions declare certain animals to be sacred and, in modern times, concern for the natural environment has provoked activists to protest against the exploitation of wildlife for human benefit or entertainment.
Killing and smuggling of animals undermines economies and ecosystems, fuelling organised crime, corruption and insecurity across the globe.
Poaching has negative side effects that affect local communities, wildlife and the environment.
For example, the population of lechwe antelopes has declined by 70 per cent from 1970 to 2015 because of poaching.
On average, a poacher can kill up to 10 lechwes in one hunting expedition.
Zambia has over the last 30 years or so lost about 144,000 elephants to poaching-related activities.
The country had an estimated 160,000 elephants in 1981 but a recent survey by the International Union for Conservation of Nature has revealed that the country has about 16,000 elephants, representing a drop of about 90 per cent.
In the case of rhinos, 13,000 black rhinos were depleted within three years.
Therefore, efforts aimed at protecting wildlife by the ministry and specifically the DNPW deserve kudos, especially that poaching has become sophisticated.
It is equally gratifying to hear the ministry reaffirming that it would ensure that poaching is brought under control.
More so, the ministry is currently working hard to ensure that staffing levels for law-enforcement are adequate to carry out wildlife conservation efforts and promote tourism in the country.
Time, money and efforts would be spent on anti-poaching and wildlife education but as long as there is selective justice in the prosecution of the culprits, the zero-tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade crusade would not be achieved.
On the other hand, we want to encourage law-enforcement wings to apply the law fairly and remember that no one is above the law despite their standing in society.
It would be interesting to know if the cases the ministry is talking about involved high-profile wildlife traders dealing in the big five animals and not the ones involving those found with impala carcases.
We need to protect wildlife for posterity.

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