BY VANESSA GONYE
ENVIRONMENT, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has urged communities in wildlife zones to avoid harmful practices such as igniting veld fires that are likely to increase human-wildlife conflicts and loss of lives due to loss of habitat.
Speaking at the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards 2022 Exhibition in Harare on Tuesday, Ndlovu also said wildlife photography was important in finding solutions to the challenges communities face while interacting with nature.
“The exhibition is important to Africa in many ways. It inspires the African people to embrace and engage with nature. It raises awareness among our people about the importance of conserving nature which we depend on for our livelihoods and wellbeing. It reminds us of the unique natural heritage endowed to us, and the unique relationship we have to our wild animals and wild spaces.
“It depicts some of the challenges that we encounter in our conservation journey such as poaching, human-wildlife conflict, climate change, illegal wildlife trade and trafficking of wildlife products, among others. In so doing, it provokes thoughts and ideas of potential solutions and policy responses to these conservation challenges.”
Ndlovu said the exhibition reminds people about the importance of co-existence between humans and wildlife since the photographs tell the African conservation story in a more vivid way than a thousand words would.
He bemoaned the massive loss of tourism business at the peak of the COVID -19 pandemic.
“Wildlife, as well as their habitats, are a valuable economic resource and at the heart of Zimbabwe’s world-renowned tourism business. We witnessed massive declines in tourism numbers after COVID-19 hit, losing more than 80% of our tourism revenues between 2021 and 2022. However, with support from organisations such as AWF (African Wildlife Foundation), we have managed to keep our national parks open and our rangers working… I hope that more Zimbabweans are able to photograph our wildlife and wild lands for a chance to be featured in exhibitions such as the one we are seeing here today,” Ndlovu added.
Speaking at the same event, AWF Zimbabwe country director Olivia Mufute said people working tirelessy to conserve wildlife must be rewarded through awards. The Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards 2022 Exhibition coincided with AWF’s 60th anniversary.