THE war against poachers in Zambia and other African countries is a problem for a number of different reasons which extend far beyond the popular view of saving the life of an animal.
For instance, the environmental degradation of poaching are sometimes clearly noticeable and at times much harder to identify- at least in the short-term.
Ok, the most obvious impact is depletion in the number of wildlife present in a given area which unavoidably affects the ecosystem and tourism at large.
The defaunation of our national parks and Game Management Areas (GMAs) due to poaching flows from the immediate impact of killing an existing animal and the long-term effects of thinning the gene pool which is often irreversible.
Nobody can deny that just over a century ago there were over one million rhinoceros in Africa, including those in Zambia, but now, poaching has directly led to their extinction in many other regions across the continent.
So the decision by Uganda to fine any convicted poacher not less than Sh200million (about US$54,817.80) or serve a jail sentence of not less than 20 years is something that Zambia and other African countries should emulate in their mission to fight poaching.
Director Uganda Wildlife Authority, Dr. Andrew Sseguya, says while poverty is often cited as the main driver of wildlife crime, a new report has revealed that poaching and trafficking of elephant ivory and rhino horn for instance is driven by wealth.
Dr. Sseguya says Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, is pushing for the amendment of the Uganda Wildlife Act, with stringent punishments for wildlife crime which should be commensurate with the lost wildlife.
Apart from that, Kampala has also made it clear that with the new development, all trucks and warehouses used in the process of poaching wildlife would also be impounded and forfeited to the State.
According to Dr. Sseguya, African Rhinos and elephants are most prone to illegal wildlife trade. Other species include pangolins, great apes, and pet birds. Pangolins are the most recently prone mammals for their scales.
Wildlife is a precious gift from God to this planet but, sadly today, many of the animals, birds and a wide range of wildlife species are getting endangered due to menacing poachers.
If people are made to fully understand that wildlife plays such a significant role in maintaining an ecological equilibrium on earth, the better for the war against wildlife poaching.
Zambians must be told in no uncertain terms that poaching and hunting of animals for meat and leather are other great factors contributing to wildlife extinction.
Other reported drivers of wildlife crime, include cultural traditions surrounding natural resource use, for example some people in most of our national parks believe in such bunkum that a new bride will not conceive until she has consumed hippo meat.
There is every need NOW to employ stringent measures to save wildlife, as very soon Zambians will realize that the extinction of wildlife will have a fatal impact on them as well.
We think that if many African governments went the Ugandan way, it would in many ways help to conserve wildlife. Only stiffer punishment will keep these heartless killers of wild animals at bay.