Zimbabwe, one of Africa's most beautiful countries and with a rich wildlife heritage, is presently struggling from the combined effects of a drought, economic problems and political uncertainty. This is putting enormous stress on wildlife, parks and people alike. At the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), we have long observed that the well-being of wildlife and people go hand in hand in Africa. When one suffers, so will the other.
AWF views with caution some reports which accuse the Zimbabwe Government to be systematically slaughtering wildlife as a means to feed rural communities. We have verified with Zimbabwe's Parks and Wildlife Management Authority that some elephants are being culled to ease pressure on both elephants and humans during this drought period. While the conditions driving this need are truly regrettable, the decision is consistent with Zimbabwe's long standing policy for management of their wildlife. The authorities indicated that the approved quota for drought relief in 2004 was 186 elephants for nine rural districts countrywide, representing a very small fraction of Zimbabwe's 100,000+ elephant population.
In addition to this government-sanctioned activity, there are credible reports that wild animals have been illegally killed and that some park boundaries have been violated over the past months. AWF is greatly concerned about such violations of Zimbabwe's conservation law and is strongly opposed in principle to any misuse of national wildlife resources for political gain by any group.
As one of the internationally respected conservation organizations working on the ground in Zimbabwe, AWF has met with government officials to express our concern and to look for ways to help curb these abuses. AWF intends to further investigate and monitor the wildlife situation in Zimbabwe.
While these accusations are being investigated, we urge all to avoid sensationalizing the plight of elephants and other wildlife in Zimbabwe. We do not believe that the long term interest of wildlife in the country is best served by attempts to pit local people and government against conservation.
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