Poaching threatens Zambia's endangered species, tourism

LUSAKA – Poaching in Zambia's major national parks is not only threatening endangered species, but also the future of the country's tourism industry.

"Zambia does not have adequate stocks of big cats, such as leopards and lions," Tourism and Arts Minister Jean Kapata told The Anadolu Agency.

She cited an increase in the poaching of endangered species, including elephants, rhinos and African wild dogs, along with the "big cats" such as lions, cheetahs and leopards.

"Lions, for example, are found in all of Zambia's major parks, but their numbers are limited," Kapata said.

She estimated the total number of lions in Zambia at between 2,501 and 4,649.

"Other endangered species – including elephants, rhinos and wild dogs – are also limited in number," the minister said.

There are roughly 26,382 elephants in Zambia, according to a 2008 national survey. The elephant population has continued dwindle from over 200,000 in the 1970s and 1980s.

Government records show that Zambia lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching in 2013, compared to 124 in 2012 and 96 in 2011.

Figures for 2014 have yet to be released.

Kapata cited indications that the country's high-value animal species would become extinct in the near future if concerted efforts weren't taken to protect them.

"We need technical assistance, funding and technology to allow us to hire more game rangers, along with modern technology to tackle poachers," she told AA.

Zambia boasts a total of nine national parks, along with a number of game reserves across the country.

-Adverse impact-

Minister Kapata, for her part, warned that the continued poaching of endangered animals would have an adverse effect on local tourism.

"Poaching… will not only have a devastating impact on the tourism industry in terms of falling tourist arrivals, but it will also translate into revenue losses," she said.

"This includes jobs that will be affected when tourists stop visiting the parks and game reserves in which these animals are found," she explained.

Kapata also warned that increased poaching and banditry would scare away self-drive tourists.

The minister cautioned that poaching would also serve to deplete the country's tourism viability by reducing its wildlife population.

"Poaching can have immediate and long-term effects on photographic tourism and trophy hunting," she said.

Kapata added that local guides and lodges – and the entire rhino-tracking tourism niche – faced possible ruination as a result of continued poaching.

She added that the impact would be felt by individual workers, including game wardens and those in the hospitality industry.

"Conservancy residents who earn their livelihoods through wildlife and related activities will be directly affected," the minister said.

Tourism brings between $350 and 400 million to the state coffer every year, with income from national parks estimated at some $120 million per annum.

Tourism contributes about 3.5 percent of Zambia's annual GDP.

Minister Kapata said her government was working to halt the apparent surge in poaching.

"Zambia is among the few countries in Africa whose reputation for tourism is growing fast," Kapata told AA. "As a government, therefore, we have an obligation to curb poaching."

She added: "If this isn't done, we should expect a fast decline in the number of visitors."

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