Harare: THE country risks losing trillions of dollars worth of wildlife as people living close to national parks “ignore” calls by wildlife experts to prevent uncontrolled veld fires.
Veld fires have already devastated large tracts of forest land in Hwange, Dete and Dande forcing animals to leave their habitat.
There were fears within the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority that thousands of animals pushed into neighbouring countries by the fires might have fallen prey to poachers.
The wildlife authority said several billions of dollars were needed to develop effective strategies to control veld fires, which have become a major threat to the development of the tourism industry.
“We are losing animal species on a daily basis and without practical solutions on how to prevent or control the veld fires, many animals will be lost this year,” Parks public relations manager Retired Major Edward Mbewe said yesterday.
He said, last year thousands of animals, particularly small species, were burnt while many were forced into areas were they were exposed to poachers.
Rtd Maj Mbewe said in 2004, 1 470 090ha of national parks land was destroyed and animals valued at over $20 billion lost.
He said the country could have benefited immensely from the animals lost.
“Last year the situation improved and about 1 260ha, around 30 percent of wildlife protected areas, was burnt. Close to $30 billion worth of animal species were lost. Infrastructure ravaged by fire had also to be upgraded. “
Rtd Maj Mbewe said this year the authority came up with a variety of measures which are expected to mitigate the impact of veld fires in all national parks.
“We are still mobilising resources to put in place fire breaks such as roads to ensure that we do not end up with fierce fire outbreaks we will not be able to control when people raise the alarm.”
Although the authority has increased the number of game wardens now manning the parks, fires started by poachers are still prevalent, particularly in areas along the Zambezi Valley.
Environmental experts have attributed the increased incidence of uncontrolled fires to lack of environmental education awareness and ineffective law enforcement, which have seen conservation policy strategy documents gathering dust.
They said the absence of a National Fire Policy and Strategy has further put conservation efforts in jeopardy while the absence of an institutional framework for fire protection has created a vacuum.
Secretary for Environment and Tourism Mrs Margaret Sangarwe yesterday said many fire control strategies were going unimplemented due to resource constraints.