SAFARI hunting in Beitbridge has been seriously affected by border jumpers whose daily crossings into South Africa are disturbing the seasonal migration of animals from Kruger National Park to the Zimbabwean side.
Affected tour operators from the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the flow of border jumpers was scaring away the animals, which no longer cross to the Zimbabwean side in large numbers, a development they said had reduced the numbers of animals available for trophy hunting.
Countrywide, safari operators are already reeling from a 10 to 15% decline in hunting receipts in this year’s hunting season, blamed on a plethora of factors including poaching and the failure to resolve the long-running disputes in the Save Conservancy.
“The ever-increasing flow of border jumpers is not doing us any favours,” said a professional hunter. “Over 200 people are now crossing over into South Africa every night and this is scaring away the animals that seasonally migrate to the Zimbabwean side from the Kruger National Park.”
The hardest hit areas include Chikwarakwara, Chipise and Chituripasi.
Beitbridge district is under the spotlight after reports that an 18 000-hectare farm teeming with game was invaded last week, the fourth such incident since the start of the land reform in 2000.
“The animals seasonally come down from the mountainous areas of the Kruger National Park to graze in the flat grassy land in Chikwarakwara but now they have been scared off by the high levels of human traffic,”said a safari operator.
He added they were dismayed that border patrols were failing to stem the flow of border jumpers despite the deployment of the army and police. The local communities in the drought-prone areas rely on Campfire proceeds from such hunting operations. Last year, Chituripasi got US$16 000, Chikwarakwara US$10 000 and Chipise US$7 000 from some of the safari concerns.
“Even the traditional leaders are not happy because this affects community benefits through Campfire returns. Chief Sengwe called a meeting early this month and blamed security forces for the problem, calling on them to make arrests and stem the flow of people,” said another safari operator.
However, National Parks and Wildlife authority spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo professed ignorance over the matter saying her organisation had not received reports that border jumpers were affecting the hunting season.
But Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Emmanuel Fundira confirmed the problems saying this year’s hunting season which runs between April and November “is not as great as it should be”.