New York — Innovative solutions are necessary to address human/wildlife conflict in the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, inadvertently caused in part by good conservation policies of governments in the area, including that of Botswana.
This was said by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi when delivering a keynote address at the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) dinner held in New York, USA on September 21.
President Masisi said in the KAZA area, which included Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the downside of conservation success included a large wildlife herd stressing the carrying capacity of habitat and spilling over to areas demarcated for human settlement.
"This has led to the emergence of human/wildlife conflict, which seems to be growing in intensity. Consequently, we have a challenge of human livelihoods by the very animals whose existence we are determined to cater for," he said.
He said the situation required innovative ways of ensuring peaceful coexistence between animals and people as a matter of ecological stewardship.
He added that wild animals spilling over to agricultural areas led to increased animal disease burden from wildlife spreading to domesticated animals, as had been the case with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), presenting another challenge to the KAZA region.
"The spectre of cross-species infection poses an even more ghastly challenge for both human and wildlife survival. We are warned that the next pandemic that humans may have to grapple with, is likely to be of zoonic origin. It is in this regard that it is important to take seriously the concept of one health. I am appealing to stakeholders to assist us in that regard," he said.
Nonetheless, he said there had been positive developments in the KAZA region, including international investment and surveys pointing to stable elephant population despite the challenges of climate change, habitat loss and poaching.
"Collaborative management partnerships are developing across the region to restore habitats and develop ecotourism infrastructure in protected and conserved areas. The global community must put in place mechanisms to reward countries and communities that have contributed positively to conservation," he added.
Furthermore, the President said at 520 000 square kilometres, spanning the five countries along the Okavango, Chobe and Zambezi River water network and adjacent national parks, and with unique natural systems and biodiversity, KAZA constituted the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world.
He said the Okavango Delta, the world heritage site in north western Botswana drawing its water from the Angolan Highlands, was the crown jewel of KAZA.
Dignitaries at the dinner included cabinet ministers from the KAZA region, special envoy of the President of France on climate and biodiversity, Ms Monique Barbutt, KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area executive director, Dr Nyambe Nyambe as well as leaders of the host institution, ICCF chairperson and president Mr David Barron and Mr John Gantt respectively. BOPA