The lifting of a four-year ban on the importation of ivory into the United States of America is expected to spur trophy hunting in the country, players in the safari sector have said.
The US Fish and Wildlife Services recently announced the lifting of the ban, “on a case-by-case basis”, despite tweets by president Donald Trump likening the practice to a “horror show”.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (Zimparks) public relations manager Tinashe Farawo told Business Weekly that following the lifting of the ban, the country is bracing for more trophy hunting tourists, and consequently revenue.
Elephant hunting costs up to $50 000 per animal, placing Zimbabwe on a firm footing to generate more revenue since the country has 34 000 more elephants than its carrying capacity of 50 000.
Most trophy hunters into Zimbabwe come from the US and Germany.
This means the ban on ivory importation had blocked hunting tourists from visiting the country.
Crucially, the Safari Club International has banned the importation of African Lion and its products into America from countries such as South Africa and Namibia, implying that local lions, which are free range, are now better placed to be bought compared to others.
Safari Club International is a global organisation, with over 50 000 hunters, that are dedicated to protecting the freedom to hunt.
“The lifting of the ban on importation of ivory has nothing to do with the stock piles of ivory (in Zimbabwe) but it relates to spot hunting whereby when people come and hunt, they can carry whatever they have hunted, be it elephant heads, lion skins or lion heads,” said Farawo.
“The lifting of the ban now means there will be an increase in tourist arrivals for purposes of trophy hunting; it means more revenue for the country because people can come knowing full well that they can take their trophies with them.
“Sport hunting improves tourism. I think you also need to know that most of clients who come for sport hunting are from America and Germany.”
Farawo could not provide statistics of tourists who come from the US for purposes of sport hunting, saying he didn’t have them off-hand.
However, Zimparks expects the figures of the people coming from America for trophy hunting to rise significantly, also taking advantage of the current dispensation that has opened the country to trade with the rest of the world.
Since inauguration, President Mnangagwa has taken advantage of every forum to emphasise that “Zimbabwe is open for business”, and Farawo believes more tourists would come.
“We had political problems in the past but we expect an increase in traffic from those countries because we are in a new dispensation, and it means a lot for us.
“There is a lot of support and goodwill to ensure our tourism sector improves and ensure that tourists can engage in sport hunting. That ban, naturally, discouraged people from coming,” said Farawo.
The lifting of the ban has come at a time when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has also endorsed efforts by Zimparks to fight poaching.
Driven by political will, poaching has dramatically declined to one elephant and one black rhino between January and March this year, compared to 12 elephants, five black rhinos and two white rhinos in the same period last year.
Last year, 640 poachers were arrested across the country and more than half of them have been convicted to a mandatory sentence while 50 rifles and 112 rounds of ammunition were recovered.
Poaching was rampant in Hwange — the country’s largest national park — where elephants were killed mainly using cyanide.
Gwayi Valley intensive conservation area chairperson Mark Russell has indicated that the decision by the US would result in more business and investment into conservation of properties which produce wildlife.