Wildlife conservation and traditional medicine collide in Swaziland

traditional medicine, or muti, is an important part of the culture of Swaziland, a country in Africa, also known as Eswatini. However, the increasing demand for muti This has put some animal species in the southern African kingdom at risk of extinction. This is something that conservationists and molecular biologists want to change.

Zamekile Bhembe, a molecular biologist who works for the eWild laboratory at the University of Swaziland, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is fighting poachers and trying to free those convicted of their crimes.

He says that poaching for traditional medicinal purposes is a main cause of biodiversity decline and he wants stricter regulations to protect wildlife.

“Whenever you see a decline in biodiversity, there will be some form of poaching,” he said. “As a country, we cannot deny that we are using these resources as our traditional medicine. The point is that we need a way to regulate them.”

For generations the people of Eswatini have held traditional beliefs and values ​​close to their hearts. This is reflected in the fact that over 80% of the population still consult traditional healers, or “witches”, for advice and healing.

These practitioners use a wide range of plant and animal species to create traditional medicines, based on knowledge passed down from generation to generation. However, overhunting has endangered local populations of pangolins, crocodiles, vultures and owls, increasing calls for more sustainable practices.

Makhanya Makhanya, president of the Witch Doctors Association, is a renowned traditional healer in her own right. He said there was a need to protect the role of traditional healers.

These physicians, he said, have served Swaziland for generations, providing treatment and assistance to those in need. But he said existing laws do not reflect the reality of their work. He would like to see regulations that recognize the role of traditional healers in society and allow them to continue their work.

Patrick Maduna, a South African citizen, said he travels from neighboring South Africa to Swaziland to find traditional medicinal solutions. Their preference for traditional treatments reflects the complex relationship between modern and traditional medicine in Swaziland.

“I came to Swaziland from South Africa to receive traditional care,” he said. “I’ve been seeing the same traditional doctor since 2006, I’ve been coming to the same place. Coming in and getting traditional care, for me it’s like therapy. “I never go to the hospital.”

Maduna said that if there were laws in Swaziland to limit the illegal hunting of animals for traditional medicine, she believed so-called witches would follow the rules.

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