HomeNewsUS bans imports of sport-hunted Zim elephant tusks

US bans imports of sport-hunted Zim elephant tusks

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THE United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has suspended imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania over alleged questionable management practices, it has been learnt.

By Wisdom Mdzungairi
Assistant Editor

This came as Zimbabwe’s hunting industry prepares for the start of the hunting season next month which runs up to November. Zimbabwe’s elephant quota stands at about 500 animals each season which are exported by mainly US citizens.

In a move that could hurt the country’s tourism industry, the USFWS also cited lack of effective law enforcement and weak governance in the parks estates that have resulted in uncontrolled poaching and catastrophic population declines of elephants in the two countries.

But Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere blasted the move by the USFWS saying it was an “unfortunate move which smacks of an extension of sanctions on the elephants.”

“It’s a dent on our conservation efforts and all the successful programmes we’ve been running. However, we’ve taken note of their concerns and we are engaging them to seek more information on why they would take such a drastic measure which is really undeserved at this hour,” Kasukuwere said.

“It’s completely unreasonable for communities that have been surviving on Campfire projects as the hunting proceeds benefited communities living alongside the wildlife resource.”

Community Areas Management Programme for indigenous Resources (Campfire) director Charles Jonga said the effects of the were devastating for the communities that benefited from elephant conservation efforts.

USFWS said it will reevaluate the suspension next year or upon receipt of new information that demonstrates an improved situation for elephants in these countries.
According to the USFWS, available data, though limited, indicated a significant decline in the elephant population.

“Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicised (cyanide) poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are also under siege,” USFWS said on Friday.

“Given the current situation on the ground in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the Service is unable to make positive findings required under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and the Endangered Species Act to allow import of elephant trophies from these countries.

“Additional killing of elephants in these countries, even if legal, is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species.”

The decision to suspend the import of sport-hunted trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania applied to this year’s hunting season of elephants.

Safari Club International (SCI) president Craig Kauffman said it will do everything in its power to fight this “reckless decision that has no basis in law, science, or conservation policy”.

“International hunters are the first line of defense for conservation, management, and anti-poaching throughout Africa. When wildlife has no value, it will most certainly be slaughtered indiscriminately.

“In 2003 trophy hunting generated approximately 60-90% of all revenues for the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. SCI’s members have purchased bull elephant tags to benefit the Campfire Foundation in Zimbabwe who conduct anti-poaching work throughout the communal lands of their country,” Kauffman said.

“SCI’s members have paid more than $100 000 to support elephant conservation from 2012-2014, whereas the US Fish and Wildlife Service has spent only $56 000 to protect Zimbabwe’s elephants from 2011-2013 through the Multinational Species Conservation Grants.”

He added: “Safari Club does not know all the details of the …announcement by USFWS to halt importations of elephant ivory from these two countries . . . SCI’s Washington team will do everything within our power to fight back against this misguided and baseless policy.”

Legal, well-regulated sport hunting, as part of a sound management programme, could benefit the conservation of elephants by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.

The USFWS indicated that they do not have conservation concerns with African elephant sport hunting in Namibia, South Africa or Botswana; although it should be noted that Botswana was not currently open to sport hunting.

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