BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) needs about US$30 million annually to effectively run its operations, but the budget might be affected if the United States government’s proposed anti-trophy hunting law sails through, an official has said.
The American government is in the process of promulgating an anti-trophy hunting law called Cecil Act, purportedly inspired by the killing of Cecil, the lion, at Hwange National Park by an American national, Walter Palmer, in 2015.
The killing of the famous collared lion sparked worldwide outrage.
On Tuesday, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa told journalists at the launch of the Zimbabwe rapid reference guide on wildlife crime at Matobo National Park that the law would cripple Zimbabwe’s wildlife conservation efforts.
“On average, the operational budget, just the operational budget for national parks, is plus or minus US$30 million and that money has been coming in from various activities like sport hunting. That is why we even fight the issue of the ban on ivory trade,” he said.
“If you look at it, ivory has been banned, trading in live elephants has effectively been banned, now they are moving to cut off trophies for buffaloes, for lions, for anything they are closing all the sources of revenue,” Munodawafa said.
“The effect of the law would be to inhibit the movement, for example, of trophies to America whether by aeroplanes heading to America or even to prohibit American hunters. If you recall, Zimbabwe’s tourism strives on wildlife and the key component also is conservation of our wildlife,” he said.
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Munodawafa said the challenge with the Act was that the country was using sport hunting as one of the ways of generating revenue for the country.
“If you look at the effect of that law, it is to say there will be no hunting at all and if you then take it in the context that most of the professional hunters are coming from the West, particularly from the Americas, if they ban trophy hunting, if the effect of the law is to ban or discourage trophy hunting, then it means our own efforts here at conservation will suffer,” he said.
He said ZimParks would fail to generate revenue to plough back into conservation for activities such as anti-poaching and setting up of fences.
“Now if all that source of revenue is cut off, it means we are opening up this wildlife, which we still have, to poachers. Because if you are weakening national parks you are weakening all the structures that were put in place and government cannot afford to put money in the budget every year to sustain conservation efforts,” he said.
Tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, having generated about US$1,050 billion in receipts from international tourists last year, marking a 7% growth from US$917 million in 2017.
The country recorded 2,6 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, 6% up from 2,4 million received in 2017.