The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism says communities remain critical in wildlife conservation, hence the need to fully engage them and adopt policies that ensure they retain benefits.

The committee this Friday toured Gonarezhou National Park as part of the committee’s familiarisation tours to assess the state of the national parks and their capacity they are carrying.

According to the chairperson of the committee, Consilia Chinanzvavana, it is time communities are fully engaged in wildlife conservation and benefit from the natural resource.

“Given our mandate of an oversight role, we are here to assess the state of our national parks and the capacity they are carrying. From what we have gathered so far from both co-managed parks and natural protected areas, there is need to consider how best to engage communities and ensure they benefit more from wildlife conservation,” Chinanzwavana said.

Zimparks CEO, Mr Arthur Musakwa said committee members should understand conservation models that the country is implementing.

“Given the committee’s mandate, we value these tours so that members understand our conservation models. We have got wildlife in conservation areas and in communal land which needs different attention,” Mr Musakwa said.

In their presentations to the committee, Gonarezhou National Park and Malilangwe Trust officials said they are engaging in a number of community projects as part of their social corporate responsibility.

Gonarezhou National Park is considered the country’s largest national park after Hwange, with an elephant population of more than 10 000.