US tells Zim to tweak wildlife conservation

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THE United States will resume imports of elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe once government steps up its conservation management efforts in communities, a United States official has said as the cash-strapped government continues to lose millions in revenue.

Wongai Zhangazha

Widespread poaching and invasions of conservancies has not only destabilised the ecosystem but also affected the livelihoods of thousands of families generating revenue under the Campfire programme, which in early 1990s generated US$1,5 million for 400 000 people.

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, speaking at a telephonic press briefing from the Washington DC Foreign Press Centre on wildlife trafficking in Africa, ahead of her trip to the continent this week, said her country did not allow the importation of trophies from Zimbabwe because it did not believe sufficient measures are being put in place to conserve wildlife.

02some of the 23 elephants killed by cyanide poisoning by suspected poachers in Hwange National Park on Monday

“We do not allow the importation of trophies right now from Zimbabwe because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not believe that sufficient measures are being put in place in that country to support the conservation efforts in local communities,” she said on Wednesday.

Jewell said in some countries where the occasional and highly limited trophy hunting worked well, it was done in a way where the revenue from the hunt, “which is in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, goes back into that local community, because we know that for local communities it’s not easy to live with some of these species. And facilitating that through economic development and revenue to them is very, very important.”

“So that is the position that we’ve taken. Zimbabwe has not got a programme that to our satisfaction addresses those issues, where a country like Namibia does. So it’s, I think, very important that countries work with us and work with local communities to make sure that the resources get to the people where they are intended,” said Jewell.

Adding to Jewell’s comments, Associate Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Robert Dreher said his country has the responsibility to ensure the preservation and the sustainable conservation of endangered species.

“Now, the question was asked about what our engagement has been with the government of Zimbabwe. We have worked very closely with the government of Zimbabwe for almost two years now to clarify their management structure, to assist them in developing conservation plans for elephants. Elephant is currently the species that we are not permitting import of trophies from Zimbabwe. And we have hope that we can work with the government of Zimbabwe to the point where they have a very demonstrable conservation programme in place that would permit us to allow imports,” Dreher said.

“The lion has just been listed, and the issue of showing that there is a conservation benefit for lions in the wild would apply to any country from which American hunters try to import trophy lions. So we’ll be looking to work with all of the range countries in Africa that – where there is hunting of lions to help make that conservation programme real.”

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