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Wildlife farmers count losses over US import ban

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WILDLIFE farmers are counting the costs of United States of America’s import ban on sport-hunted elephant tusks with players looking for alternative markets to mitigate the crisis.

NDAMU SANDU
CHIEF BUSINESS REPORTER

In April, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) suspended imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania over alleged questionable management practices.

Mark Russell, chairman of the Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area, said 2014 had been the worst year due to the import ban of ivory by the US from Zimbabwe.
“It’s a sad situation. We know the value of the elephant we have. We feel very offended,” he said.

The Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area is 105 000 hectares in size and has 33 farmers.

This year, the area received 6% of the national Cites quota, but no hunting took place due to the US ban. US takes over 70% of the area’s annual hunts.
Russell said the farmers had to rely on last year’s proceeds and this has impacted on conservation practices.

“It has downstream effects on immediate communities we support. We feel it’s our right to maintain the Cites allocation per year. We hunt something which is marketable,” he said.

He said the farmers have been surviving from the proceeds of last year and there was little revenue in 2014 and that had impacted on conservation practices.

Russell said farmers have “woken up” from relying heavily on the American market and were looking at other alternative markets in Scandinavian and European countries. He said the response from the European market has been positive.

In banning the imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, the USFWS said “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”.

“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,” USFWS said.

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