First Lady drives for better  human-wildlife conflict management Global Wildlife Ambassador for Wild Africa Fund, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, looks at a pangolin at Wild is Life as she adds her voice on the protection of these highly endangered animals which are celebrated 18 February which is World Pangolin Day

Tendai Rupapa  Senior Reporter

FOREST and wildlife conservation are key to unlocking the country’s tourism potential, creating thousands of jobs, thereby contributing to the country’s economic growth.

It is in this regard that the country’s tourism and environment patron, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has stepped up efforts to ensure forests and wildlife are protected.

Dr Mnangagwa is the country’s wildlife ambassador appointed by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and global wildlife ambassador for WildAid, an international organisation.

Amai Mnangagwa has also been advocating for protection of communities looking at human-wildlife conflict management thus, working tirelessly to engage potential stakeholders on issues where humans and wildlife intersect.

So passionate about environmental conservation is the First Lady that she has been spearheading tree-planting initiatives countrywide.

Working with conservation arms like the Forestry Commission, she has been educating communities, including schoolchildren, about the dangers of burning forests and the indiscriminate cutting down of trees.

In the awareness campaigns, she also roped in those convicted of wildlife crimes to protect wildlife so that on their release from prison they do not repeat similar crimes.

The aim is to habilitate them and make them appreciate the importance of wildlife.

Global Wildlife Ambassador for Wild Africa Fund, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa feeds an orphaned elephant calf at the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery based at Wild is Life. — Pictures: John Manzongo 

Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Barbara Rwodzi said wildlife anchored the country’s tourism and was the basis for the nation’s biodiversity and conservation efforts.

“The First Lady is our wildlife ambassador and through her efforts, the cause of biodiversity is being advanced. Our wildlife population is at an all-time high with high species population in our national parks and outside,” she said.

Work on a successor wildlife policy, Deputy Minister Rwodzi said, was at an advanced stage, with a raft of related policies.

The revisions to the wildlife policy of 1992, and passage of the new CAMPFIRE manual, she said, was a milestone achieved through the efforts of the First Lady.

“On the 2nd of November 2022, Cabinet passed the Human Wildlife Relief Fund that will address human-wildlife conflict in areas that are also principally our biodiversity areas. This is a huge achievement to address human wildlife conflict that threatened the livelihoods of our people. The First Lady always visits families affected by human-wildlife conflict. The families who lost a member, those maimed and injured are visited and comforted. It is through her efforts that we saw it fit to provide relief to affected communities.

“At a global scale, the First Lady led the region in the preparations for CITES (Convention on International Trades in Endangered Species) at the Hwange Elephant Conference. She rallied the global community for conservation of flora and fauna through international funding and allowing our range states to be allowed to trade in wildlife guided by international law.

“Zimbabwe prioritises biodiversity within forest programmes. All gazetted forests are also wildlife areas. Our First Lady has been in the forefront of promoting indigenous woodlands recovery, so as to enable wildlife populations to recover in areas they have not been sighted for many years,” she said.

The Deputy Minister said when deforestation happens as in most crop producing areas, wildlife disappears.

“New generations have no opportunity to see wildlife in real life. As a patron for wildlife and tourism, our First Lady has been promoting indigenous tree planting for wildlife recovery. This is a unique programme she leads, and is seeing growth of new conservancies that have disappeared. The promotion of planting of indigenous trees is part of a raft of strategies that will see growth in wildlife,” she said.

In appreciation of her tireless conservation efforts, WildAid described the mother of the nation as an active and important figurehead in conservation for African wildlife.

Ms Lauren York, the representative for WildAid paid tribute to the First Lady for her dedication and passion to preserve the country’s park spaces and wildlife for future generations.

“The First Lady, Her Excellency Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, through her role as Wildlife and Environment Patron of Zimbabwe is an active and important figurehead in conservation for African wildlife. We are extremely grateful for The First Lady’s direction and support,” Ms York said.

As the global ambassador for WildAid founded by Mr Peter Knights, Ms York said Amai Mnangagwa was lending her voice and influence on an international stage for Africa.

“Our projects and campaigns together with the First Lady are aimed at changing attitudes to poaching, habitat loss, community network integration and human wildlife conflict; as well as promoting wildlife tourism and sustainable development within conservation practices. Together with Zimbabwe Parks and Management Authority, we are honoured for the First Lady’s dedication in her position as Mother of this nation, and passion to preserve the country’s park spaces and wildlife for future generations.

“We are proud to work with The First Lady in her role promoting Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts to the world,” she said.

So passionate about conservation that the First Lady has been committing time during her visits across provinces to educating people on the need to curb human-wildlife conflict which has led to the loss of life and limb.

She also regularly teaches communities the importance of protecting forests which are the natural habitat for various wildlife species for the benefit of future generations.

In response, the First Lady said she was humbled to learn that the work she is doing across the nation was not going unnoticed which saw her being appointed global wildlife ambassador by WildAid.

“I am grateful that the work I am doing is being noticed as well as benefiting the nation. This bids on me to do even more so that we protect our wildlife species which earns our country foreign currency through tourism.

“There is need to address the issue of poachers who are mercilessly decimating our wild animals for their horns, special skins and even meat. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade remain a major threat to Zimbabwe’s economic development and national heritage. We should live in harmony with our wild animals. I am so proud that Zimbabwe is home to the 2nd largest herd of African elephants in the world. Let us protect our elephants and wildlife for all to enjoy,” she said.

She said that animals and plants keep ecosystems functional.

“Healthy ecosystems allow us to survive, get enough food to eat and make a living. When species disappear or fall in number, ecosystems and people suffer. Planting of trees is also very important because forests provide shelter to a wide range of animals.

“If the trees are destroyed, these animals also die as they do not have their natural habitat. This destruction makes many of the endangered plant and animal species extinct. I will not tire when it comes to tree planting initiatives so that we re-green our forests which had gone bare,” she said.

She added; “When nature thrives, we can too. Together we can do better.”

Barely two months into the new year, the country has witnessed countless reports of people being injured and getting killed in crocodile attacks.

This is a form of human-wildlife conflict, which the First Lady is warning communities about.

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