African ministers on Tuesday renewed support for innovative conservation models geared towards minimizing the violent encounters between local communities and wildlife species like elephants.

The ministers from Kenya and Gabon who spoke at a virtual briefing said that combating human-wildlife conflicts is at the heart of efforts to conserve the continent’s wildlife heritage.

“Human-wildlife conflicts that have escalated in Africa due to climate change impacts, growth of human population and industrial farming is the greatest threat to conservation of critical species,” said Najib Balala, cabinet secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.

“We need to balance human development and wildlife conservation in order to avert attacks that lead to loss of lives and property,” he added.

Balala said that Kenya has prioritized support for nomadic communities living near wildlife habitats to encourage them to protect iconic land mammals like elephants and rhinos amid threats of poaching.

“Some of the projects funded by the government and conservation partners like schools and health centers are aimed at encouraging communities to appreciate the role of wildlife in sustaining their livelihoods,” said Balala.

Lee White, minister of forests, oceans, environment and climate change in Gabon said that long-term solution to human-wildlife conflicts in Africa lies in sustainable financing to promote climate adaptation, protection of habitats and community-based awareness programs.

“We need technical and financial support to address climate change and habitat loss that is fuelling human-wildlife conflicts in the continent,” said White.

He said the communities need to be educated on the need to protect wildlife not only as a heritage but also as a source of their livelihood.

White said that Gabon, which is home to the largest surviving population of African forest elephants, said that combating poaching and putting up electric fences around wildlife habitats could minimize violent clashes with local herders and farmers.

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