Crafting of Hunting Trophies Bill by UK, US based on emotions, not science
THE United Kingdom is in the process of crafting a Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill which is meant to prohibit the importation of wild animals into that country.
The United States is also making similar moves.
Zimbabwe is not supportive of the proposed bills on the prohibition on importation and possession of wild animals into the two countries.
There is no doubt that the proposed bills are based on misleading information and it is unfortunate and sad that the proposals are not based on science, but on emotions mainly advocated by faceless activists on social media and some people from some air-conditioned offices in London and Washington.
The majority, if not all of them, have never been to Zimbabwe in particular and Southern Africa in general which is host to at least two thirds of the remaining elephants.
Without doubt, Zimbabwe has a healthy population of elephants, lions, leopards, black and white rhinos, giraffes, hyenas, pangolins and baboons.
And it is unfortunate that some of these species mentioned in those proposed bills have either increasing or stable populations in the country.
Due to the ever increasing populations of these animals, human wildlife conflict cases have also been on the rise.
For a woman in Mbire or Hwange the problems are real, the majority of them do not have adequate daily provisions, yet they share borders with animals which for years have been creating value through hunting.
At least 68 lives were lost in 2022, dozens more injured and not mentioning thousands of hectares of crops which have been destroyed and livestock killed.
It is important to note that these proposed Bills will not solve any of the challenges that it seeks to address but instead will increase hostilities between vulnerable rural communities and the animals.
Legal trade in wildlife species is not a major issue as compared to other more important factors such as climate change and habitat losses, which is threatening the survival of our animals.
In 2019, nearly 200 elephants and dozens of other wildlife species succumbed to drought and loss of habitat induced starvation.
Needless to mention that rhino horn trade has been banned for more than 40 years yet its illegal trade has not stopped.
Instead it has been on the increase.
It is suicidal for people in air-conditioned offices in Europe and America to prescribe how we are going to look after these animals when there is overwhelming evidence that wild animals in Zimbabwe in particular and Southern Africa in general are in good hands judging by the rising populations of these animals.
Admittedly, elephants and other key species are endangered in other parts of Africa, but that is not the case in Zimbabwe or in Southern Africa.
Instead of encouraging the good conservation work that is done by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, some have been poo-pooing the sterling job the authority has been doing despite having limited resources.
It is not only misleading but not true to state that legal hunting is contributing to a significant decline in wildlife.
There is no evidence to that effect.
In fact, hunting has resulted in the protection of wildlife in the country and in the region.
It has also benefited rural communities who share boarders with the animals, through Campfire programmes directly benefiting nearly 1 million households.
Legal hunting has supported wildlife conservation through revenue generated beyond the protected area network and secured vast habitat outside protected areas.
Most wildlife conservation initiatives and community programmes outside the Parks and Wildlife Estate in Zimbabwe are anchored by hunting.
Over the years, the country’s wildlife management authority under carried out a number of activities which were acknowledged by the United States.
“Zimbabwe has carried out a number of actions at national level and in collaboration with regional and local communities and interested partners on the ground that together demonstrate a clear interest in and concrete efforts toward establishing a better management regime and providing greater support for conservation efforts to enable elephant sport hunting that provides a clear benefit to the survival of African elephants in Zimbabwe,” reads part of United States Fisheries statement in part.
Over the years, various IUCN Species Specialist Groups have recognised and utilised safari hunting as a primary conservation tool which is beneficial not only to the animals but also to the communities who bear the brunt of sharing borders with wild animals.
No huntable species mentioned in the bill and occurring in Southern Africa and Tanzania is assessed as endangered or critically endangered by IUCN.
More importantly, by management design, safari hunting secures the most viable populations of the iconic species in the Bill.
There is no scientific evidence of any animal species among those mentioned that have declined or are declining due to trophy hunting.
The Range states in part of Eastern and in Southern Africa have robust management systems in which safari hunting is an essential component.
Zimbabwe is a typical example with robust, science-based management systems are working judging by the number of animals.
There are multiple factors which may contribute for a species decline including habitat loss or destruction, climate change and poaching.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that Kenya lost 70 percent of its wildlife since it suspended safari hunting as they are valueless for the rural communities who in most cases are the first line of defence.
According to other wildlife experts, Kenya wildlife policy is a widely recognised failure and its hunting suspension in 1977 contributed to a catastrophic decline in wildlife.
The country has a growing elephant population of over 100 000 which is the second largest in the world.
There is overwhelming evidence that the country’s wildlife populations of giraffe, zebra, large carnivores (including lion, leopard, hyena) are also very healthy and are on the increase.
A visit to any village across the country, communities are struggling with wild animals invading their homesteads in search of food and water.
It is important to note that none of the key wildlife species in the country is declining and in most countries in Southern Africa.
Needless to mention that wildlife trade, and hunting in particular, is carefully regulated in Zimbabwe and other countries, under national law, co-ordinated and harmonised implementation of conservation measures under various regional initiatives, including Trans frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) within SADC.
The country has a robust regulatory framework for management of wildlife and hunting quotas are based on science.
Zimbabwe has a strict CITES permitting system and a network of law enforcement and trade is already appropriately regulated nationally by the authority, internationally by CITES, and by importing countries including USA, as regulated by US Fish and Wildlife Service.
If approved the bill would negatively impact CAMPFIRE, Zimbabwe’s signature community-based conservation program that supports over nearly 1 million households.
CAMPFIRE incentivises the setting aside of communal lands as wildlife habitat and the management of these lands for the benefit of both people and wildlife.
Hunting provides the primary source of revenues in the most successful CAMPFIRE areas and provided over US$2 million annually in the period 2011-2016 and thousands of jobs created.
These revenues improve community livelihoods and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
If the benefits of regulated hunting and legal wildlife trade are reduced by an import ban in the US and UK, the incentives and tolerance of local communities to remain key players in the conservation system will be reduced and this results in habitat loss and a reduction of these species.
Tinashe Farawo is the head of communications for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.