Safari operators intensify US ban fight

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THE Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (Soaz) will hand over additional information requested by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as the association fights a ban on importation of sport hunted elephant trophies lifted.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The USFWS in April announced a suspension on imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe during the calendar year of 2014.

“In Zimbabwe, available data, though limited, indicate a significant decline in the elephant population. Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicised poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are also under siege,” the organisation said when they imposed the ban.

“Given the current situation on the ground in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the Service (US-FWS) is unable to make positive findings required under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 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.”

Soaz chairman Emmanuel Fundira told businessdigest in an interview on Wednesday that the USFWS has asked for additional information to convince them to lift the suspension which was recently extended to December this year.

“They (USFWS) have asked for additional information,” Fundira said. “They have asked for area surveys which are taking place, an elephant management plan which is also being done and we also want to show how the suspension has directly affected families under the Campfire (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) project.”

The ban has threatened the livelihood of 800 000 families under the Campfire project.

Fundira led a delegation to the United States in May to have the decision rescinded and met various government officials, including the Secretary of State John Kerry. The group comprised, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director-General Edson Chidziya, Campfire director Charles Jonga, Zimbabwean Professional Hunters and Guides Association chairman Louis Muller and wildlife consultant Rowan Martin.

Fundira claimed the continued ban was meant to impoverish government so that the state fails to pay civil servants, causing unrest in the country.

He said the association’s efforts to capture alternative markets, particularly in Eastern Europe, showed a lot of promise.

Fundira added that they would complement these efforts by attending the various tourism showcases in countries such as Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria and market the country’s potential.

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