How Zambia is fighting poaching

The Luangwa ecosystem is home to almost two-thirds of Zambia’s elephant population. Previously, the population of elephants in Zambia reached 250 thousand individuals. But since the 1950s, due to poaching, the number of elephants in the country has declined sharply. By the 1980s, only 18 elephants remained in Zambia. However, the cooperation of animal rights activists and local communities interrupted this trend. In 2018, there were no cases of elephant poaching in North Luangwa National Park, and in neighboring areas, the number of cases of poaching has decreased by more than half. 

The Northern Luangwa Conservation Program, developed jointly with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, helped to achieve such results. This program relies on the help of local communities to help fight poaching. Ed Sayer, head of the North Luangwa Conservation Program, says local communities have turned a blind eye to poachers in the past. Previously, local communities received little to no income from tourism, and in some cases, locals themselves were engaged in hunting elephants and they had no incentive to stop this activity.

Sayer said the organization worked with the local government to achieve a more equitable income-sharing policy. People were also shown various financial alternatives to poaching, such as the development of forestry. “If we really want to protect this territory, we must ensure the full participation of the community, including in terms of income distribution,” says Sayer. 

An end to poaching

The end of poaching can be brought closer thanks to new technologies and smart funding.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya conducts anti-poaching air and ground patrols, preserves habitats and engages local communities. A South African game reserve uses a combination of CCTV, sensors, biometrics and Wi-Fi to track poachers. Thanks to this, poaching in the area has decreased by 96%. There is currently a demand for integrated conservation in India and New Zealand, where tigers and marine life are being poached.

Funding for projects aimed at stopping poaching is increasing. Last July, the UK government pledged £44,5 million to initiatives to fight the wildlife trade around the world. Michael Gove, UK Environment Secretary, said that “environmental problems know no borders and require coordinated international action.”

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