They were attending the 2019 “Elephant Summit” in Kasane, north-eastern Botswana, which ended on Tuesday.
The leaders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe also rallied behind Botswana’s call for the region to have a unified approach in tackling human-wildlife conflict.
Namibian president and Southern African Development Community chairperson, Hage Geingob, took a swipe at those who criticize Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) countries for its conservation programs that call for a reduction of elephant numbers.
“I support KAZA efforts on elephants. We should not be victims of our success in conservation,” he said. “The West must humble itself and learn conservation from us, instead of lecturing us on what we ought to do.”
In 1995, Namibia only had 2,000 elephants. The number has since grown to 40,000 thanks to effective policies and laws, Geingob said, calling for a sustainable way of ensuring that the ecosystem’s carrying capacity is maintained.
“The elephant population in Namibia is in safe hands. The shared approach on elephant management will go a long way in reducing human-elephant conflict,” he said.
Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, urged the governments in the KAZA to speak with one voice on the need to reduce elephant numbers.
The rise in elephant population is making it difficult to manage sustainable ecosystems, especially in Botswana, where their number is estimated at over 130,000, Masisi said.
The prevailing circumstances call for an urgent review of the strategy with a key element of effective international engagement, hence the Kasane Elephant Summit.
Zambian president Edgar Lungu said the Elephant Summit is a testimony to the region’s common resolve to manage the KAZA TFCA natural resources.
The African savanna elephant thrived in the KAZA area because of good conservation policies, he said. Lungu encouraged his colleagues in the region to work hard in fighting poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa also affirmed his country’s support to controlled elephant management. Elephants are a symbol of conservation success in the KAZA region, he said, adding that Zimbabwe is committed to the elephant management approach as championed by the region.
Mnangagwa also called on countries to implement robust mechanisms to curb illegal wildlife trade.