Zambia –– From CHARLES CHISALA in Livingtone BUSH fires allegedly lit by some Livingstone residents have swept through thousands of hectares of the Mosi-o-Tunya National Park, forcing hundreds of wild animals, birds and other creatures to shift southwards.
And the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) has warned Livingstone residents against indiscriminate lighting of fires in the park because they will be arrested and prosecuted if caught.
Government has also condemned the practice and urged ZAWA and the Livingstone City Council to come up with a joint sensitisation campaign to educate residents on the negative effects of bush fires in the park on tourism and the environment.
Southern Province permanent secretary Chileshe Mulenga said in an interview in Livingstone yesterday it is important for ZAWA and the city council to sensitise the residents living on the eastern boundary of the park on the dangers of igniting fires in protected areas.
If we destroy our game park, we will be destroying tourism which has been bringing a lot of money into our country. What is lacking is awareness. ZAWA, the council and the media can work together in sensitising the public on this serious issue, Dr Mulenga said.
The park is home to different kinds of wild animals which include elephants, zebras, the white rhino, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest, duikers and warthogs besides countless species of birds and plants.
And ZAWA has warned that it will arrest and prosecute the people who ignited the fires that have laid bare thousands of hectares of the park, displacing various wild animals, birds and many other creatures.
Public relations officer Wilfred Moonga said in a telephone interview from Chilanga yesterday that fires are more destructive to tourism than poaching because they force animals to leave their natural habitat and shift to new areas in search of pasture.
It is an offence for anyone to light a fire illegally in a game park. If we identify these people, we will not hesitate to arrest them and take them to court to face the law. Animals are negatively affected when they are forced to abandon their normal habitat.
What makes these fires even more destructive is that they are started from the eastern boundary and are then blown southwards by the winds covering large areas, Mr Moonga said.
The park is a busy tourist destination boasting of motorised and walking safaris, boat cruises and camping.
Zambian tourism is mainly nature-based.
According to a report released by the World Bank in 2007 titled Zambia Economic and Poverty Impact of Nature-based Tourism, the average nature tourists spent US$1,100 per trip in Zambia in 2005, adding up to a total of US$194 million or 3.1 percent of the countrys gross domestic product for all the 176,000 nature tourists.