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Tracks of Giants

Further Reflections on Conservation

Further Reflections on Conservation

It is some 25 years since I last visited Namibia and the Koakoveld. It was most gratifying to see the vast improvement in this country which has taken place since then. The introduction and establishment of Conservancies as recommended many years ago by Garth Owen Smith has proved an outstanding success.

By retaining ownership of the land and responsibility for the animals there has been a “buy in” by the local population who also share in any proceeds from hunting and tourism. The results are there for all to see. Animal counts are up across the country and the condition of the landscape in general has been improved despite the presence of cattle and goats in many instances.

Botswana chose not to go this route and is now suffering the consequences of overgrazing from too many cattle, and the granting of hunting concessions which have decimated the game in many areas resulting in a severe loss of income to the local population.

One reads about the high average income of the population of Botswana being one of the highest in Africa. We saw very little trace of this during our travels so far. Apart from some roads, conditions do not seem to have changed much in recent years and most of the wealth seems to stay in Gaberone. Unlike Namibia, we found it extremely difficult to communicate via cellphone and Internet. Fortunately the Delta area, the jewel in the crown, appears to be well looked after and controlled.

Population explosion remains Africa’s greatest challenge. Man is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Conservation and until this is accepted and tackled head on it appears unlikely that much progress can be made. Many instances of severe charcoal burning were noted in both Namibia and Botswana and no doubt will be seen also in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the weeks which lie ahead.

Despite the above, an enormous amount of good work is being done by many people including poorly funded NGOs. Owing to the problems and the threats which are growing all the time (eg from the mining fraternity) it is imperative that a coordinated approach be adopted to tackle these problems as soon as possible.

This is probably our greatest challenge.

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