Wednesday, August 10, 2022

National Parks invites independent researchers to undertake animal surveys

The Director at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Oduetse Koboto, says the reason why the department has considered shifting from doing animal surveys and researches themselves was to allow independent researchers the chance to do so instead as it has proven to yield better results.

He said the move was relevant because the department does not have enough funds and resources to continue making in-depth studies the whole year, which is why they have decided to take it to the experts as it might take long for the department because of resource constraints as well as capacity.

He said that the most important thing is for those willing to undertake research to inform them so as to enable them to foster research work and finance.

“However you need to understand and bear in mind that generally as DWNP, we have priority areas for research, therefore I would like to encourage you to conduct it based on our priority areas as well as under-researched areas,” said Koboto. “Traditionally, there are some areas locally which have lots of under researched wildlife while at the same time the statistics are needed to allow good record keeping and that, I believe, we can achieve through your assistance. We will share with you, some of our guidelines and new policy developments as you need to fully understand the dynamics of wildlife in priority areas.”

Research fellow at the Okavango Research Institute, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, demanded to know of the priority areas as earlier told by the director now that they are expected to form collaboration. He said doing surveys might not be easy at individual capacity and might be better carried out by government even though the issue of financial constraints is still understandable.

His other concern was that there are some people who, after they have been issued with research permits, never give the final product as per the expectation by DWNP.

“I strongly believe there is need for you to thoroughly implement and monitor the process up to the very end, because at the end of the day we are going to have to be able to have those findings kept safely so that they may be seen by generations to come,” said Mbaiwa. “So it would not be appropriate for people to get research funding and disappear without availing relevant feedback.”

Participants also wanted to know if the new policy will include the issue of 100 percent compensation in events when there is destruction by wild animals always resulting in human wildlife conflict, especially elephants.

They also questioned the credibility of findings done by independent researchers, and stressed the need for the department to benchmark with other neighbouring countries to see and learn how they do their animal surveys and research work.

Dr Gaseitsiwe Masunga from ORI asked about the quality of surveys, particularly during wet seasons as it is less compared to dry seasons.

In response, the deputy director at DWNP, Dr Cyril Taolo, said the department manages their wildlife differently, adding that the wildlife population is also good even though they are challenged by the illegal off-take in the Okavango Delta, resulting in significant numbers going out due to poaching.

“Neighbouring countries also see us as an example to emulate; no doubt we can confidently pat ourselves on the back. I agree challenges will always be there, but we need not be too worried that we might be doing badly,” said Taolo. “Reality is aerial surveys are expensive, and so cannot be done regularly as they cost in the region of close to 3 million; that’s why we encourage individuals to help. As for independent researchers not doing their work as expected, I think we will have to make sure they do right because non compliance with research permits will never be tolerated and is strongly condemned. Also there are certain conditions attached which they are expected to follow.”

Concerning human/wildlife conflict, Koboto said the 100 percent compensation will not wait for the implementation of the new policy per-se as they are currently in consultation with their counterparts from the Ministry of Agriculture, considering the fact that their rates were at some point low or unrealistic. He said the 100 percent will only be applied on damage done by animals considered to be dangerous, like elephants and lions while others will continue with the current market value.

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