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  • Writer's pictureJames Martin


Updated: Jul 27, 2022

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THE media has a critical role to play in pushing a Pan-African agenda on wildlife conservation and counter the campaign opposed to trade in animal products being pushed by Western countries through their media.

Speaking during the first day of the African Elephant Summit here yesterday, participants said there is a lot of untold stories in Africa, especially around how communities are affected by animals as human-wildlife conflicts escalate because of the increasing population of animals, climate change and competition for habitat.

Africa seeks to come up with a common position going into the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) in November in Panama and requires the support of the local media.

This comes as Western media make noise when people kill or poach animals but are quiet when humans are attacked or killed. High rates of human mortality, destruction of crops and infrastructure, change of lifestyles and loss of habitat are some of the major challenges communities face and these are not known to the Western world which is pushing for a unilateral ban on trade in products from wild animals.

Addressing delegates yesterday, Mr Marco Pani, a government and communal relations officer for United States-based Conservation Force, challenged the media to seek science-based facts about wildlife conservation.

"There is a very simple thing, tell the truth. Media should seek and tell the truth. There are articles that are untrue and we implore media to do thorough research and we need good media to seek for information in the right places and not give only one side. Good media leads to development," said Mr Pani.

He called on the media to understand the science behind conservation on economies and social issues, and challenged African governments to initiate training workshops for media on technical conservation issues.

Mr Pani said it was important to show that conservation in Africa is a serious issue and can't be trashed by irresponsible media.

Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa challenged the media to come on board in the whole discourse of animal conservation especially from a local perspective.

Media should have access to information on elephants' population, human-wildlife conflict, destruction of habitat that is high in national parks and how other species are affected as a result. "We believe the media should be alive to these stories, tell the truth and let the world know what we are experiencing as a country and region," Mr Munodawafa said.

"If we don't talk about it they may not know what's happening. We need such stories every day and not just when we are going to CITES."

He said there were numerous cases of human-wildlife conflict, some of them leading to death, which go unpublished as Western countries opposed to trade in wildlife products cast a blind eye to these.

The media should let the world know about conservation and development work done by wildlife authorities, governments, local authorities and other organisations through Campfire programmes, said Mr Munodawafa.

"Media should cover funerals and destruction of property that directly impacts on human life and the world will start seeing the other side of our beloved animals that we live with.

"Media should celebrate such stories so that the world knows that revenue generated from donors and conservation is ploughed back to communities. This will help Africa approach CITES with one voice," he said.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general Dr Fulton Mangwanya said human life should be prioritised ahead of wildlife.

"We have a culture as Africa not to show some things in public. People die and intestines are protruding but we don't publicise this.

"From now onwards we will publicise these so that we see who is important between human beings and animals," he said.

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