Conservation: An African Issue

Conservation: An African Issue

Just about two weeks ago, John Reed of the Financial Times authored an article ("We can't put a policeman behind every animal", July 31) about the current situation in Zimbabwe. As Mr. Reed articulated, it wasn't long ago that Zimbabwe was regarded as one of Africa's model countries at least in terms of wildlife and environment policies and management. Now, both the people and the wildlife are suffering.

But, among his pessimism, Reed said that "it occurs to me, as I write this, that wildlife and its protection in Zimbabwe -- as elsewhere in Africa -- is largely the concern of white people". As the leading international conservation organization focused solely on the wildlife and wild lands of the African continent, our staff is more than 80 percent African, including the head of our program, chief scientist and senior representatives on the continent.

And, despite the widespread suffering and devastation, there are many people working hard to protect wildlife and protected areas in Zimbabwe. While we are not the only NGO working on the ground, the African Wildlife Foundation hosts two offices in Zimbabwe, specifically in Victoria Falls and Kariba. Together, these offices employ 11 Zimbabwean employees who are proceeding with a number of conservation initiatives in Zimbabwe and neighboring countries despite the current discouraging conditions.

On his recent visit to Zimbabwe, AWF president, Patrick Bergin, was able to hand over assistance including equipment, uniforms and food, to the park scouts working on anti-poaching efforts in the Zambezi valley. In addition, Patrick met with some of the very dedicated and capable members of staff of the new Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Clearly, conservation is only one part of the problems facing Zimbabwe at the present time. But, we are hopeful that the preservation of Zimbabwe's wildlife assets, by Zimbabweans, will provide options for the future of that great country.