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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Parliamentary Question (Animal Population)

An interesting exchange in Parliament over the scale of animal population and the financial difficulties associated with looking after the rising population. This is something Minister Namugala recently touched on. The government wants to downlist the size of the elephant population to "facilitate commercial trade in elephant product, which would earn the country foreign currency and create employment for Zambians" :

Animal Population in Game Management Areas and National Parks, Oral Answer (249), Edited Transcript, 24th February, 2010 :

Mr Kambwili (Roan) asked the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources what the population of the following types of animals in the Game Management Areas and National Parks of Zambia was: (i) elephants; (ii) lions; and (iii) leopards.

The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources (Mr Mwangala) : Madam Speaker, the estimated number of elephants is 26,382 based on the 2008 National Survey. The distribution of elephant population is as follows: Luangwa Valley (18,666); Kafue (3,348); Lower Zambezi (1,299); Others (3,069); and, Total (26,382). The actual number of lions in Zambia is not known, as there has been no national survey due to financial constraints. However, the current estimates derived from small samples show that the population of lions ranges from 2,501 to 4,649. The actual number of leopards in Zambia is not known, as there has been no national survey due to financial constraints. Therefore, the leopard population is described qualitatively, basing on postulation such as hunting statistics and observations made by wildlife law enforcement officers, tour operators and tourists. Leopards in Zambia is described as follows:(i) Lower Zambezi - abundant; (ii)Luangwa Valley and Kafue areas – common; and (iii) Nsumbu and North-Western - rare.

Mr L. J. Mulenga (Kwacha): Madam Speaker, having informed the House that the total population of elephants in the national parks is 26,382, I would like the hon. Deputy Minister to tell the nation the economic benefits derived from these animals.

Mr Mwangala: Madam Speaker, I have said, in my response, that financial constraint has been a problem.

The Minister of Home Affairs (Mr Mangani): Madam Speaker, there are several benefits. One of the benefits we derive from these animals is that licences to kill these animals are issued and the Government generates some revenue from this. I cannot give the figures, but there is a lot of revenue generated by the Government. Furthermore, we also have a lot of tourists coming into the country.

Mr Kambwili: Madam Speaker, the co-business of tourism is, actually, the assets which are animals. I would like to know how this Government intends to put tourism at the centre of its economic development if it cannot account for the number of animals in the national parks? Further, what is the effective method of counting animals in the national parks?

Mr Mangani: Madam Speaker, I do not think that it is only by counting animals that we can necessarily see the economic benefits. Of course, we have indicated the number of elephants, but we have also highlighted the problems that we are facing in terms of counting lions and leopards. The answer has indicated that if we had enough resources, we could have counted the animals because you cannot imagine going into the wild to count animals as there is the likelihood of meeting up with lions. That is the reason we would like to use some aeroplanes to make sure that we see these animals from a higher altitude as some of these animals hide, thereby this takes quite some time. We have an interest in ensuring that we know the number of animals in our parks, but we have had challenges as indicated by the hon. Deputy Minister in the answer.

Dr Katema (Chingola): Madam Speaker, I would like to find out from the hon. Minister why the Government allows safari hunting of leopards when it is not sure of the total number of these animals.

Mr Mangani: Madam Speaker, the answer has given some estimated figures and we give licenses in areas where we have these figures.

Mr Mwansa (Chifunabuli): Madam Speaker, I am wondering how some conservation measures are being undertaken by the Government when it is not sure what the number of lions and leopards is.

Mr Mangani: Madam Speaker, in my answer, I stated that we have estimates, but we do not have the actual figures like we have on the elephants. I would like to emphasise that we have estimates of numbers of these animals in all these game management areas.


  1. An elephant in the room

    A classic Mad Hatter’s tea party: baKambwili – obviously a town man – has lain awake at night in his motel room suffering the fever of those who do not know how many elephant, lion and leopard there are in Zambia; baMwangala – Deputy Minister of Tourism – says there are 26, 382 elephant but, because of financial constraints, cannot say how many there are of the latter two species; baMulenga wants to know the economic benefits derived from elephant; baMwangala implies that this cannot be answered because there is no money; baMangani, Minister of Home Affairs, comes to the rescue saying that benefits accrue from hunting licenses and tourists; baKambwili – perhaps with malaria threatening – wants to know how tourism can drive the economy when we don’t know how many animals there are in the national parks; baMangani – coming once more to the DM’s rescue – says it is all a matter of enough resources because it is not possible to count lion for danger of meeting them in the wild, aeroplanes therefore being essential to find the hiding animals; Dokitah baKatema complains that leopard are hunted without knowing how many there are; baMangani – now holding the floor on matters animal population - says it is a matter of estimates (guestimates?); baMwansa says conservation cannot be carried out if animal numbers are not known; baMwangani replies that ‘…in my answer, I stated that we have estimates, but we do not have the actual figures like we have on elephants’.

    This curious interchange on the dark science of statistics and population dynamics is the result of GRZ’s application to the 15th Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) - based on greatly exaggerated elephant population ‘estimates’ and no mention of the rampant ivory poaching - later this month to downlist the protective status of the elephant in Zambia so that they can sell 21 tons of ivory (instead of burning it as they did publicly in 1992), carry out increased trophy hunting, trade in raw hides and bring ‘benefits to rural communities’. Of course this is all part of the aggressive move by Minister Namugala to turn the parastatal ZAWA into a corporation, one empowered to harvest wildlife in pursuit of profit. It is very unlikely that – as with the 20 elephant shot annually on license since 2005 – that any benefit will accrue to rural people who receive all the costs and none of the potential advantages of living with elephant. After all, Zambian rural people in elephant country are 30% poorer than those who live without elephant. CITES is not really about whether trade restrictions on ivory stimulate or depress demand by Asia for our ivory; it is about the jockeying of over-centralized Governments wanting to profit from what has been harvested from the wild. In the case of Botswana, the money obtained from ivory sales is invested in the Conservation Trust Fund, 30% of it being spent on communities living with elephant. However, no such fund exists in Zambia.

    The truth is that elephant poaching in Zambia has been rampant for the last 36 years, a problem which will only be solved by re-instating the ownership of elephant outside of protected areas in the traditional authority on behalf of their people.

  2. Today I received an extremely important report on the Zambia elephant debacle. Herewith is some of it:

    Conservation: Elephants, Ivory, and Trade

    By Samuel Wasser et al


    12 March 2010

    Tanzania and Zambia are petitioning the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to "downlist" the conservation status of their elephants to allow sale of stock-piled ivory. The petitioning countries are major sources and conduits of Africa's illegal ivory.

    Loss of keystone species like elephants impacts the integrity of ecosystems and their services. In Zambia, elephants maintain the transition zone separating the habitats of genetically distinct savannah and forest elephants.

    There is one key question: Do legal sale influence levels of poaching across Africa? That question could not be resolved, partly because MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants), created by CITES in 1997 to assess poaching rates on a continental scale, is unable to deliver data relevant to the causality mandate. With no reliable verification in place, the European Union brokered a compromise, making the 2008 sale contingent on a 9-year moratorium on future stockpile sales. The moratorium would provide time to enhance enforcement and to monitor the impact of the sales in the absence of further legal trade. CITES, however, restricted the moratorium to the four countries involved in the initial sale and never addressed whether poaching levels were so serious that any further trade could ultimately jeopardize elephant survival throughout most of Africa.

    Tanzania and Zambia are exploiting this restricted moratorium in their petitions. Approval requires demonstration that their elephant populations are secure, law enforcement is effective, and sales will not be detrimental to elephants. Yet, Zambia and Tanzania are among the largest sources of, and transit countries for, Africa's illegal ivory. China and Japan, the only two approved importing countries, are also among the three largest consumers of illegal ivory. They too are failing to control illegal trade, risking legal sales becoming cover for black-market ivory.

    Ivory seizures are one of the most rigorous metrics of illegal ivory markets, illustrating the scale of involvement by country. Since the ivory ban, seizures of illegal ivory peaked in 2002, 2006, and 2009. Zambia and Tanzania were among the most heavily involved in this trade during each peak; they also petitioned CITES to downlist their elephants in those same years. The largest single ivory seizure since the ivory trade ban (6.5 tons in Singapore) in 2002 was shown by DNA analyses to have originated almost entirely from Zambia. Zambia unsuccessfully petitioned CITES to downlist their elephants that year, and other similarly sized seizures followed.

    These large seizures are indicative of organized crime and suggest that Tanzania and Zambia's abilities to address these challenges are considerably compromised. But this was not always the case...

  3. Chosanganga,

    Very interesting indeed.

    I take from this that there's a gap in both data and policy.

    The data gap is that we don't appear to know exactly how many animals they are BUT government believes the COST of maintaining the population is going up.

    The other data problem appears to relate to this stockpiling. It appears from Namugala's position that as the Jumbo population goes up we are having more ivory - is that correct?

    The policy position appears murky. Is the government trying to ask for money for maintenance of the rising population or is looking for foreign exchange? Namugala appears confused on this.

    Where do I agree with the government is that, if the data supports, its not good enough petitioning for refusing to grant Zambia the sell, without providing more aid money to look after them. Someone somewhere values these animals and its that person who should pay to look after them. Namugala has clearly decided the status quo is not value for money for ZAWA and the tax payer.

    The BIGGER policy question of course is one you raise - how to ensure that the locals ultimately benefit from any sale.


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