Integrating Game Management in Zambia Wildlife Sanctuaries

The Zambia Wildlife Service (ZPS) was an originally autonomous department of the Zambia Government established to manage and preserve Zambia’s wildlife estate, comprising twenty National Parks, six Game Management Areas and a single bird sanctuary, that cover only 31 percent of the entire country or area. Today the service is administered by the Zambia Tourism Department. ZPS was established to fill in the gap created by the Zambia Government departments for the efficient management and conservation of Zambia’s wildlife. ZPS now encompasses all aspects of the service, which include the protection and management of wildlife, as well as education and tracking of species migration, surveying parks and game reserves, and the management of hunting and fishing quotas.

This department is very successful in conserving the diverse yet fragmented population of animals in the national parks and sanctuaries, which serve as a biological diversity hub for biodiversity. Many of the bird species occur only in certain parts of Zambia and have gained international prominence due to their conservation status. In addition, there are numerous rhino species which exist in a dispersed landscape with little conservation effort. Most threatened are the black rhino, the rare and large horned rhinoceros and the white rhino, which are critically endangered.

To protect the biodiversity of Zambia, the service has also taken on an ambitious plan to convert several small but important wildlife refuges into an integrated network of parks, reserves and wild habitats. These projects aim to increase local knowledge about wildlife conservation and raise the level of participation and commitment from local people. This will result in improved connectivity and coordination of programs and activities between the wildlife estate, the local communities and government officials.

The success of the initiative however, lies in its implementation. In order to implement this plan, the Zambia government needs to partner with local communities in conserving their natural habitat. This would be an important step forward towards conservancy. In addition, the governments should ensure that their developmental plans and strategies to promote and support sustainable use of Zambia wildlife sanctuaries and parks. Such steps will ensure that both the wildlife sanctuaries and the local communities benefit by means of improved access to livelihoods, better use of the lands and a higher rate of biodiversity conservation.

It is essential for Zambia’s conservation efforts that people living in the remote areas take up a part-time job to engage with the local communities and gain a better understanding and knowledge of how their lives and livelihoods can improve through effective use of Zambia wildlife habitat. Such an approach will allow people to take up part-time jobs and sustainably use wildlife tourism in the country. Through such measures, we can also ensure that the diverse wildlife sanctuaries of Zambia are sustainable biodiversity hubs for the future generation.

Communities in Zambia face many challenges in the build-up to the conservancy. The challenge faced by them is to transform their lifestyles and adapt to life among communities where there is little contact with the outside world. The key to this is to involve themselves in everyday activities such as hunting and fishing to gain a better understanding of animals and their particular needs. Involvement and association with local people also enable communities to sustainably utilize Zambia national parks and other wildlife estates.

A successful approach to the conservancy in Zambia needs to incorporate a comprehensive multi-pronged approach. This means a comprehensive approach to policy development, monitoring and evaluation, participation of local people in decision making, and engagement of game management areas. Strategies and programmes must therefore be developed that address issues such as, population trends, the sustainability of wildlife tourism, protection and control of environmental risks, habitat and eco-management strategies. Specific plans must be developed to protect game and livestock, improve animal welfare, manage risks posed by tourism and introduce and promote sustainable use of wildlife properties. These integrated programmes must also include long-term maintenance and protection strategies and plans for protecting zebra, white and black rhinos.

It is important to note that while some parts of Zambia have adequate infrastructure in place to support and benefit from a diversified tourism industry, other regions are lagging behind and are experiencing significant barriers to development. Areas lacking infrastructure are less well-connected, and lack access to major urban centres and trade routes. These areas continue to struggle with problems related to lack of basic infrastructure and rampant poaching which has resulted in thousands of elephants being killed in recent years. To improve sustainable use of wildlife in Zambia, it is recommended that only game reserves with proven success in conservation and management should be earmarked for expansion and that Zambia’s national parks and other wildlife areas should be properly monitored and preserved for current and future generations.