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Responsible wildlife management entails climate adaptation and mitigation

CIRCLE Blog compiled by Olga Laiza Kupika (CIRCLE post master research Fellow 2015, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe (home institution) hosted by University of South Africa)

As part of my CIRCLE fellowship, I had the priviledge to subscribe to one of the renowned platforms for wildlife ecologists from across southern Africa, the Southern Africa Wildlife Management Association (SAWMA). SAWMA is an independent, non-profit association, founded in 1970 to promote conservation and effective management of the wildlife resources of southern Africa (   Over the past years, SAWMA has been organising conferences based on different thematic areas. The theme of this year’s symposium was Responsible Wildlife Management: A Key to Biodiversity Conservation ( A large number of the talks fell under the themes of understanding and managing threats to wildlife and biodiversity, and emerging information to aid wildlife management decisions. I took the opportunity to attend this year’s conference so that I could also share my research on the threat of climate change to biodiversity. The five day event which ran from 6 to 10 September 2015 was attended by ecologists and conservationists from across Southern Africa.

In her official opening speech, the reigning president of SAWMA Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert said....“We are all aware that pressures on our biodiversity from renewable energy developments, wildlife crime including poaching, legislative developments and the impacts of increasing economic uncertainty, to name a few, mean that the need for responsible management is of key importance to ensure the protection of our wildlife resources. A critical balance needs to be struck between conservation needs and developmental imperatives, and it has therefore never before been so crucial for us to work together to tackle the knowledge gaps and identify and implement priority actions to ensure that the use of our natural resources remains sustainable in the long term.......”. This speech is closely linked to SDG 15 which highlights the need to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, & halt reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

My presentation was on “Legal and institutional frameworks for natural resources management: implications for managing threats to wildlife and biodiversity in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, Zimbabwe”. This paper sought to answer the following questions:

1. To what extent do international, regional and national legal and institutional frameworks address such threats to biodiversity and the need for responsible wildlife management within the Middle Zambezi biosphere reserve?

2. What programmes, projects or strategies have been put in place in pursuit of the goals of sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources?

The paper evolved from secondary data gathered through review of technical reports and government publications, as well as empirical data from semi-structured questionnaires and key informant interviews of experts. Results from the study indicate that there is a need to mainstream biodiversity threats, particularly poaching, illegal harvesting of wildlife resources and climate change into local policies. National and local natural resources management institutions should be reviewed in order to integrate strategies to mitigate threats to wildlife and biodiversity. View the presentation online at:

Author captured during presentation

Other key note speakers included Dr Andrew Jenkins, who delivered a speech on the development of sustainability standards for renewable energy development in SA, with a particular emphasis on reducing impacts on birds. Dr Jenkins gave insights into the role and impacts of wind farms from across South Africa. This was quite interesting considering that with climate change mitigation and adaptations underway.... the quest for renewable energy options should be a priority for the wildlife sector. I guess the wildlife industry across Africa should seriously think about this! Prof Louw Hoffman gave a thought provoking presentation on changing research paradigms to face the realities in wildlife management and conservation emphasising that a major threat to wildlife management and conservation comes from the changing climate.

Considering that the African continent is endowed with a variety of wildlife flora and fauna, some of which are or might be vulnerable to climate change (few studies have documented such evidence....hence more studies are also needed). African countries must address climate change adaptation and mitigation in their national policies, wildlife management plans and research programmes as part of adaptive management.


  1. This is an interesting piece Olga. Especially on the need to highlight the impacts of climate change in the wildlife sector and also in the context of development and economic growth.


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