China’s role in promoting wildlife conservation in Africa will help support economic growth in countries relying on tourism, says a senior wildlife conservation official.
Chinese support is also needed to help them deal with the impact of climate change, which has affected wildlife at major parks, said Dr. Philip Murithi, Vice-President, Species Conservation at the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), to Xinhua.
Murithi said the Chinese approval to have issues of wildlife conservation discussed at its meeting with African foreign ministers, is the surest signal yet of China’s growing support for conservation efforts.
“China is a major player in efforts to ensure illegal poaching of wildlife does not continue to affect wildlife negatively,” Murithi told Xinhua in an interview ahead of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is due to be held Dec. 4-5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Murithi said wildlife conservationists would like to see China enforce much tougher environmental checks on mega-infrastructure projects it is currently helping to implement across Africa.
“We would like to see China support wildlife conservation by ensuring all the projects it supports ensure respect to wild lands. These would be important for the ecosystem goods and wildlife conservation.”
The Chinese government has given its approval for discussions to take place on the future of wildlife conservation with the stoppage of the illegal trade in ivory as a major agenda item at the FOCAC talks.
“We need to see ecosystem-friendly development across Africa. This would be an important Chinese contribution to the governance and environmental conservation,” Murithi added.
Critics point out despite the increasingly growing Chinese efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade, poachers have continued to plunder Africa’s rich environmental resources.
“Our approach to increased wildlife conservation is to work with the authorities and people in China to reduce the demand for wildlife products,” said Murithi, whose conservation body is set to take part in a series of side-events ahead of the FOCAC talks to raise awareness about conservation in Africa.
Murithi said the China-Africa Dialogue will ensure conservation of wildlife becomes a key point of discussion between China and Africa on matters of Africa’s development.
“Elephants have a cultural value and a contribution to Africa’s tourism growth. We are seeing the last herds of the elephants globally. We need future generations to continue to see these elephants here in Africa. That is why we think the China-U.S. agreement on curbing ivory trade is a bright future for wildlife. This is a positive time for conservation in the whole world,” Murithi said.
Insisting the population of elephants have reduced by 60 percent in the last 20 years, Murithi said the Chinese support for curbing trade in ivory would bolster conservation of wildlife.
“We want to see sustained wildlife conservation. We need to see wildlife plays its part in conservation efforts in Africa. FOCAC will have the wildlife conservation on its agenda. Given that China is a major player in Africa’s development; its involvement would also lead to more resources for conservation.”
The conservationists say while holding the FOCAC talks in Africa is a major contribution from China to Africa’s development effort, putting conservation on top of Africa’s diplomatic engagement with China would benefit the conservation of elephants.