Conservation vital for socio-economic development of poor and rural communities: Zuma

South African President Jacob Zuma. Picture credits: Gallo Images
South African President Jacob Zuma. Picture credits: Gallo Images

It is critical for governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival‚ says President Jacob Zuma.

He said regulations must ensure that trade of rhinos for example‚ or wild ginger‚ was done in a way that ensured that future generations continued to benefit from them‚ and that they did not become extinct.

“Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. The existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future‚” Zuma added.

He was delivering the opening address at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg‚ referred to as COP17.

Zuma said South Africa was fully behind the conference because it was committed to conservation which contributed significantly to socio-economic development of poor and rural communities.

“The sustainable use of the country’s indigenous biological resources is fundamental to the development of South Africa’s economy and social transformation.

“In this regard‚ game farming‚ the hunting industry‚ eco-tourism and bio-prospecting play a significant role. The management interventions that we apply are therefore aimed at enhancing the livelihoods of the communities to whom they are entrusted.”

South Africa‚ he said‚ was already running successful green and ocean economy programmes‚ as well as a biodiversity economy linked directly to the bio-prospecting and wildlife sectors.

“What we are doing is in line with the continental strategy‚ Agenda 2063‚ which recognises the important role that natural resources play in Africa’s development and socio-economic transformation.

“In addition‚ the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development‚ adopted at the United Nations a year ago‚ also includes goals that promote the protection and sustainable utilisation of natural resources‚” Zuma told the conference.

It was also important though to remember that natural resources did not only sustain livelihoods of communities. They were also critical in promoting economic development‚ he told delegates.

Examples of this included the lawful trade in wildlife‚ including the practice of hunting‚ which was criticised by many.

“The hunting sector in South Africa generates well over one billion rand a year‚” Zuma stated.

The country’s wildlife also contributed immensely to the GDP through the tourism sector‚ anchored in the main on nature-based tourism with the Big Five.

 “This is a big job creator in our country.”