9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Nation Urged to Copy Zambia and Botswana in Hunting Suspension

Zimbabwe's government is being urged to copy the recent moves by Botswana and Zambia and suspend giving out hunting licences, to clamp down on illegal activity.

Zambia last week suspended the tender process for hunting concessions and also cancelled all hunting licences, because of alleged corruption. That country's Tourism Minister, Sylvia Masebo, was reportedly spurred into action by incidents of corruption and malpractice taking place between the hunting operators in the country and some government departments. She also went on to fire the Director General of the Zambian Wildlife Authority and a number of other officials, before launching a full investigation.

This drastic move, which is being applauded in wildlife activism circles, followed the announcement by Botswana's President Ian Khama last year, that his government will no longer issue hunting license. He said the issuing of such licences was fuelling poaching in the country and preventing sustainable tourism growth.

With poaching levels in Southern Africa reaching crisis levels, it is hoped that measures like hunting suspensions could assist in protecting the wildlife in the region. Last year more than 600 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa alone, with warnings the animals are now facing being wiped out in a few years if nothing is done.

Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that Zimbabwe's government should also consider a suspension.

"I do believe that all hunting licences should be revoked and instead we should try and get more sightseeing and photographic tours. That way you can cut off corruption. There are certain individuals getting licences but their operations aren't benefiting the country, they're not benefiting the people," Rodrigues said.

He added: "At the moment licences are handed out to favoured people and they aren't always following the laws that regulate hunting. So for example they are going into the breeding areas in national parks and hunting there. So I would really advise government to go down this route."

Rodrigues agreed with Botswana's Khama that clamping down on the hunting industry and promoting photographic tours, would help fight poaching.

"One, there will be more people in the way of tourists on the ground to see the animals, so it would be easier to spot when things go wrong. Also, all the money generated could be used to actively fight poaching," Rodrigues said.

He added: "It fills me with hope when I see other countries doing this. So I really hope that this is a sign of things to come."

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