Not very, as it turns out. As this article notes, The Zimbabwe embassy in Stockholm reports that 13% of its territory is reserved as parks and wildlife estates. But the article goes on to chronicle a list of growing threats to Zimbabwe wildlife:
mining concessions are proliferating in national parks
Zimbabwe’s food supply and drought problems encourage small wild game subsistence hunting
this reduces prey available for top predators leading to increased human/predator interactions
foreign nationals involved with mining and other industries may be contributing to elephant and rhino poaching
Zimbabwe is undergoing deforestation. In some cases road building for mines provides increased opportunity for firewood collection which is proliferating as a subsistence industry. Road building also increases poaching access.
A report released this month states that the global illegal ivory trade is now 3 times larger than it was in 1998. It indicates the involvement of criminal networks operating with impunity to collect and transfer the ivory from east African nations, and that the main destination is China. This report contrasts with our experience in Hluhluwe, Kruger and Chobe Parks where protected elephants are now so numerous that they are destroying vegetation faster than it can rejuvenate, threatening the parks’ function and biodiversity. In Zimbabwe, elephant consumption and destruction of trees and shrubs in some locations has progressed to the point where elephants are starving – where water holes are now too distant from the food supplies. To be sure, once ivory supplies in east and central Africa decline, organized poaching networks will not just call it a day and go home – they will move south. For more information, here is the United Nations Environment Program news release. More on this – African forest elephants decline by 62% in 10 years reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the CITES conference in Bangkok. This is not attributed to habitat reduction. Instead, forestry has provided road networks which improve access for poachers.
Here’s some Bruce Cockburn music to go with this post. I recalled a comment made by a guide during our “walk with the lions” in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. He mentioned an amazing rate of decline in recent years in the lion population. As a biologist, my first thought was, “They’re going extinct.” Since our return from Africa, I’ve seen news articles about rhinos and crocs, but not lions. So I went looking for more. Lion population estimates presently vary from 20,000 to 30,000 world wide, 10% of the African lion population 100 years ago. Some sources quote a 90% decline in only the last 30 years. The best web site I’ve found is a map at National Geographic that shows population changes across time. Additional information is also available from National Geographic at this site. The Panthera cat conservation site indicates that there are only 7 countries in Africa that are believed to have more than 1000 lions. From a biologist’s point of view the problem is 2 fold, not only are the population estimates extremely low, but the geographic expanse remains relatively large which results in isolated communities and reduced opportunity for out breeding. Here’s a Youtube video describing the conflict between farmers, urbanization and lions in Kenya.