In countries North of the Limpopo River, Safari hunting is an industry that is still very much part of the livelihood of the local communities and in some areas like Zambia, people depend heavily on income that is derived from hunting. Also known as Trophy Hunting, the phrase “sustainable utilization” is unfortunately not always well understood in these areas. After the closure of Safari Hunting in Kenya in 1977 and more recently in Botswana, huge pressure is also now being felt in Zambia to make hunting sustainable. In 2011, five animal-rights and conservation groups petitioned to the American Fish and Wildlife Service to list our African lion as endangered, arguing that the population in Africa had fallen dangerously low because of habitat loss, poaching, commercial hunting and new diseases associated with human encroachment.
To look at this objectively, let us look at Safari Hunting from the Zambian point of view. The Zambian Wildlife Authority vision statement reads as follows; “To achieve excellence in wildlife estate management by developing innovative approaches and partnerships that encompasses best practice, and complete transparency and integrity.” Their mission statement reads as follows; “To contribute to the preservation of Zambia’s Natural heritage, ecosystem and biological diversity for present and future generations through the careful conservation of Zambia’s wildlife.”
The primary objectives of ZAWA are to improve the quality of life among communities in wildlife estates and maintenance of sustainable biodiversity in national parks and game management areas in order to:
reverse the decline in wildlife resources,
improve wildlife resource management to a level which will secure sustainable flow of benefits from the resources; and
considerably improve the wildlife resource base investment in co-operation with the private sector and local communities.
ZAWA has a significant role to play in the economic development of Zambia and its economic realization will significantly contribute to the GDP of Zambia. These noble objectives outlined above will be achieved by ensuring ZAWA’s integrity is upheld at all times and its commercial activities are managed prudently. It is now an intrinsic part of Government policy to focus on wildlife conservation. ZAWA will work much more closely and in partnership with the private sector engaged in tourism development than may have been the case in the past.
From a Safari Hunting point of view, it is that the International trophy hunters that play a critical role in the protecting of wildlife in Zambia. The millions of dollars that hunters spend to come to Zambia on safari each year help finance ZAWA, the National Parks, the Game Management Areas, the Citizen Recourse Boards, the Chiefdoms, local communities and conservation efforts in this rapidly growing country.
This is why the Zambia Safari Operators are alarmed that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are considering listing the African lion as endangered. Doing so would make it illegal for an American hunter to bring their Lion trophies home. Those hunters constitute 70 percent of our trophy-hunting market, and losing them would be disastrous to our conservation efforts. Let us take the African Lion for instance and ban the hunting. The first thing that will happen is the value of Lion will drop to nothing as it will become a liability to the domestic livestock of local communities that live in the hunting concessions. No gain, no value and as a result soon Zambia will have no Lion as populations will drop quickly within a few years.
Having said that, the temporary ban on hunting in Zambia was only on 19 concession areas or as we
we know them - Game Management Areas - and the reason for the withdrawal was purely because of suspected corruption with the tender process and not through pressure from anti-hunting conservation groups. The possibility of having these affected areas open again for the 2014 hunting year was almost certain and by June, new allocations were already finalized and allocated. The ban on Lion and Leopard might also be lifted. The outstanding 13 GMA’s are currently still in full hunting operation till 2017 together with fenced game farms open for business as usual year round.
Income that arrived from Safari Hunting in Zambia is divided into the following support systems for our local communities: Citizen Recourse Board - 45%, Chiefs (Patrons) - 05%, ZAWA - 40% and Central Treasury - 10%. Our hunting Concession Fees in as follows divided: Local Communities (CRB’s) - 15%, Chiefs (Patrons) - 05% and ZAWA - 80%.
Local Communities are expected to utilise these public funds on local community agreed socio-economic development projects such as schools, health centres and feeder roads. Guidelines on the utilisation of community funds are in place. It was agreed with CRB representatives in 2004 that 45% of their revenues would be spent on wildlife protection, 35% on community projects and 20% on administration of CRB.
Likewise, hunting outfitters awarded hunting concessions in respective Game Management Areas have made specific pledges to develop their respective areas of operation for the benefit of local communities. The question that remains for us to answer is; “will the banning of hunting save our wildlife heritage or destroy it!?”