Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers responsible for tourism have resolved to establish a regional police unit in an effort to curb illegal poaching.
Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo says the resolution was made during the SADC biennial meeting held recently in Mozambique.
Ms Masebo said the resolution is aimed at curbing the escalating levels of illegal poaching recently experienced in SADC member countries.
Ms Masebo, who led the Zambian delegation to Mozambique, said in Livingstone on Friday that delegates to the SADC ministers’ meeting were concerned with the escalating levels of “sophisticated methods” of poaching of elephants, rhinos and the big cats.
“We’ve just returned from Maputo in Mozambique where we had a meeting of SADC ministers responsible for tourism, natural resources, environment, forestry and water.
“We learnt that we’re all experiencing similar situations especially as regards wildlife. The levels of poaching in SADC are getting higher especially for the rhino and elephants’ tusks,” Ms Masebo said.
She said the delegates, who discussed among other issues the levels of implementation and ratification of wildlife and conservation protocols among member states resolved to establish a regional police unit that will curb illegal poaching in the region.
Ms Masebo said the ministers also emphasised the need to work closely with the ministries of defence and air force to effectively curb poaching.
“One of the issues that came out on poaching is that the level [of poaching] in almost all member states is on the increase…for example, we learnt that in South Africa, in the last one year about 70 rhinos have been killed while the number of elephants killed in Zimbabwe has also increased,” she said.
Ms Masebo said the delegates resolved to strengthen collaboration in curbing poaching in the region.
“We agreed as a region that there is need for SADC to come up with combating mechanisms like setting up some regional police units, working with other security wings like the army to track down the poachers and get to markets where the product is being sold,” she said.
Ms Masebo also said the ministers learnt that poachers are now using sophisticated methods including drugging the beasts, which has to be combated.
“Poachers are no longer using guns or traditional methods of trapping animals like snaring, which are common here in Zambia. They are now using drugs… the animal is drugged and it dies slowly. They later remove the horns without shooting or hacking it,” she said.
Ms Masebo said the delegates also assessed the status of their forests, fisheries and wildlife and discussed the need to harmonise policies and regulations aimed at protecting the water and wildlife resources.
Date: 8 October 2013