Harare — ZIMBABWE is committed to conserving its wildlife heritage as it plays a critical role in the development of the nation and alleviation of poverty, the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Cde Francis Nhema, has said.
This, he said, was shown by the amount of land that has been allocated for wildlife conservation.
Speaking at National Wildlife Day commemorations in Chinhoyi at the weekend, Cde Nhema said the country's economy depended on wildlife activity through tourism.
"The Parks and Wildlife Estate (covering five million hectares or 13 percent of the country and 2 percent in forest reserve) alone places Zimbabwe high, among nations that have reserved a substantial proportion of land exclusively for nature conservation.
"What is more important is that the land has been effectively managed for that purpose," he said.
At least 30 percent of the country's land has been reserved for wildlife conservation with half of that protected by the state and the remainder by private safari operators, newly-resettled farmers and rural communities implementing the Communal Area Management Programme for Indigenous Resources.
To fully benefit from its wildlife resources, he said the country was expanding consumptive and non-consumptive tourism such as the lucrative safari hunting and use of stocks from protected areas to diversify and enhance rural communities and economy.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country and the world.
The country has recorded a 33 percent increase in tourist arrivals and half of them visit wildlife areas such as the Hwange and Gonarezhou national parks among others.
He urged management at the Parks Authorityto consider the ecological, socio-economic and cultural linkages that exist with the people in the areas where they are located to ensure sustainability.
As a result, he said, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism was promoting partnerships, co-management, synergy and benefit sharing among the protected area authorities, individual landowners and the rural communities.
He hailed trans-boundary conservation initiatives with Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the Great Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park as important in protecting the ecosystem.
There are other trans-frontier conservation areas such as the Limpopo-Shashe Trans-frontier Conservation area, the Kavango-Zambezi (with Botswana), Chimanimani Trans-boundary Conservation Area (with Mozambique), the Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia trans-frontier conservation area and the Mana Lower Zambezi Trans-frontier conservation area.
Also speaking at the event, the director general of the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Mr Morris Mutsambiwa said the authority would continue to work hard in conserving the environment and wildlife.
"Although we are working under difficult conditions where there are always threats from poachers, we will strive to carry out the mandate the people of Zimbabwe gave, that is to protect the environment and nature," he said.
The event, which is held annually, was marked by displays by the parks rangers, drum majorettes and a soccer match.
Chinhoyi residents had an opportunity to see the lion and leopard among other animals.
Mashonaland West Governor and Resident Minister Cde Nelson Samkange urged people to join the parks and wildlife authority in conserving the environment and avoid veld fires which destroy animals and vegetation.