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Monday, 24 March 2014

WWF engages artists in wildlife conservation campaign

By Andrew Mulenga

Launched by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in July last year,  the International Wildlife Trade Campaign, an on-going, one year sensitization project aimed at combating poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife commodities has taken on a creative twist with the Zambian country office engaging artists in the campaign.

“As country office we have to design our own campaign programme, and we decided to base it on three main objectives. The first is to lobby and advocate with policy makers and government for stiffer penalties on wildlife crimes. Second to lobby government to make increased commitments towards fighting illegal trade,” said WWF Zambia country office Species & Protected Areas Coordinator, Moses Nyirenda in an interview.

Adrian Ngoma tackles the sensitization
against the purchase of processed ivory
He explained the third objective was to increase public awareness about the seriousness of wildlife crimes on the local economy, livelihoods and tourism in the country.

“We have considered art for the third objective. We thought we could use artistic productions with regards sensitizing the public towards the illegality of the trade. The art itself champions four core themes; to stop the killing, sensitizing against the purchase of processed ivory, extinction and finally illegal international trafficking,” he said.

Although Nyirenda neglected to share the tender procedure and explain how his team arrived at Adrian Ngoma and Emmanuel Muntanga the artists selected to execute the job, the two did not disappoint, both former school teachers once based in Botswana, Ngoma and Muntanga lived up to their reputation.

Ngoma tackled the sensitization against the purchase of processed ivory and illegal international trafficking in his paintings while Muntanga handled the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife. Charged at a gallery rate, the six paintings cost on the upper side of K40, 000 in total.

 “We have various uses for the paintings. We are going to graphically reproduce them into posters that we hope to start distributing by the 1st of April. These will be placed in embassies, public buildings, schools and so on. Then we will also create large billboards and we hope the city councils can help get us space at the entrances of the main towns and at the airports” said Nyirenda.

Here one is tempted to commend Nyirenda and team at WWF for deciding to choose painters for their campaign. As small as six paintings may seem, the campaign is clearly bigger than these few paintings. WWF could have easily had such a project done by an advertising agency, but their decision to empower artists, even just two, has to be applauded.

Commissioned works of art are few and far apart. Right now, commission-starved Zambian artists remain hopeful towards rumours that the pending Arts, Culture and Heritage Bill will alleviate their agonies.

Emmanuel Muntanga handled the
indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife
It is understood that government will begin to purchase and commission artworks because somewhere within the bill there is a “purchasing policy” believed to be an artistic river Jordan over which they will cross and dwell in a creative Canaan to enjoy a land of milk and honey following decades of wandering in an artistic wilderness picking whatever manna was provided by the rare collector here and the expatriate there. In any case, one can only wish the artists all the best, there is no harm in hope or its audacity.

Nevertheless, Nyirenda’s use of artists for the WWF campaign is not only a welcome idea in terms of monetary empowerment, but the two artists have produced brutally eye-catching work that could prove particularly effective as campaign tools when printed on posters and billboards. No doubt the campaign is particularly crucial because the situation Nyirenda paints is quite grim.

He says the killing of elephants in particular is fuelled by the increase in demand from Europe and Asia, and it is not benefiting Zambians at all, it in fact robs them of potential livelihoods if the animals are used solely for tourism.

“At poacher level they don’t get more than US$ 1,000 or K5, 000 for a pair of tusks, and they have to share that money among a group of maybe 10 and yet the street value is between US$600 and US$1,000 per kilogramme and a tusk can weigh up to 15kgs” he explained adding that it takes up to 22 years for an elephant to grow fully.

He said in Zambia, according to the Wildlife act of 1998, poaching attracts a custodial sentence of up to five years, it is therefore not rewarding, but even the jail term is not a deterrent factor.

The WWF will graphically reproduce
the paintings into posters and billboards
As much as Zambia is a transit point as well as a source in the illegal ivory trade, it is not among the countries the United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) terms as “the gang of eight”.

The “gang of eight” countries include the supply states, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, plus the consumer states of China and Thailand. The group also includes three countries - Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - which are important in the transit of ivory.

According to CITES, black market tusks can fetch well over US$1,000 per kilogramme and this illicit, lucrative industry has attracted crime syndicates and fuelled sophisticated trafficking networks.

By the same token, Louisa Dasquineur highlighted the unfortunate situation for the March edition of Sawubona, the South African Airways in-flight magazine, she wrote: “Increasing wealth in China – and in the newly industrialised Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan – has created rapidly expanding middle classes with a taste for luxury goods. China now has 1.3 billion people and unprecedented purchasing power, and the appetite of its baofahu (newly wealthy) for “white gold” appears insatiable. Experts estimate that 70 per cent of all black market ivory ends up in the world’s fastest-growing major economy and that 84 per cent of the ivory on sale in China is unlawful”.

And Nyirenda said it is not only elephants that are on the endangered species appendix of CITES but even lions that are supposed to be on top of the food chain this is why extinction too is one of the important themes on WWFs campaign.

He explained that some seemingly overlooked species that people take for granted such as the Agama -- popularly known as “blue head lizard”, “gumu gumu” or “kolyo kolyo” in local slang – could probably be on the brink of extinction, not worldwide but in urban Zambia.

He argues that this type of lizard is no longer seen in urban dwellings due to mass construction as well as wholesale killing for sport, the latter of which the author too would stand guilty if charged.

An entire generation should be able to relate that growing up in the 1980s would often involve the hunting of lizards for target practice with homemade catapults and “pendo guns” (homemade guns that could shoot bottle tops). Little did we know we were contributing to the probable extinction of a species in our country in the next few decades?
Nevertheless Nyirenda hopes to work with the telecommunication companies to see if they can provide a toll free line to be placed on the posters and billboards. These lines will be for alert citizens to be able to report poaching activities or the illegal trade in wildlife commodities.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks brother, because as a South African artist I didn't not know much about Zambian Art or artists, but now through your block I have already learn a whole lot and I am looking forward to indulging more about Zambian and African Art.