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Minister of Tourism Holds Meeting to Address Wildlife Crisis Amid Severe Drought

In response to the devastating impact of the severe drought gripping Zambia, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Rodney Sikumba, MP, convened a crucial breakfast meeting with wildlife conservation stakeholders at the Government Complex in Lusaka.

The gathering aimed to strategize on salvaging the nation’s wildlife from the throes of the drought emergency.

Southern Province, among other regions, has been ravaged by the drought, prompting President Hakainde Hichilema to declare it a national disaster and emergency.

Minister Sikumba underscored the far-reaching consequences, highlighting concerns over not only food security but also the welfare of Zambia’s wildlife.

With diminished food and water sources, coupled with heightened disease prevalence, wildlife mortality rates are anticipated to spike. Minister Sikumba cautioned that the reduced sustenance among local communities may exacerbate poaching activities, posing a grave threat to conservation efforts.

Moreover, the increased movement of animals in search of sustenance is expected to escalate wildlife-human conflicts. The minister warned of a potential surge in uncontrolled bush fires due to arid vegetation, compounding the challenges faced by conservationists.

Minister Sikumba voiced apprehension regarding the adverse impact on the economy, citing potential setbacks in GDP contribution and job creation within the tourism sector.

He stressed the urgent need for concerted mitigation efforts to prevent regression in the strides made in wildlife preservation and tourism development.

Expert insights and meteorological data indicate that heavy browsers such as elephants, hippos, antelopes, and big cats are among the hardest hit by the drought. The crisis extends across 84 out of 116 districts nationwide, encompassing critical wildlife habitats in southern Zambia.

Acknowledging the strain on government resources, Minister Sikumba cautioned that the Ministry of Tourism’s budget allocation for 2024 might face cuts to address other pressing priorities.

He urged wildlife conservation stakeholders to mobilize effectively in safeguarding Zambia’s wildlife heritage during this perilous period.

In a bid to garner support, Minister Sikumba announced plans to host the KAZA summit later this year, leveraging the event to attract strategic partners and potential investors in conservation efforts.

The summit presents a platform for collaboration within the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) and beyond, with the Ministry seeking co-financing from cooperating partners.

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