By Lahja Nashuuta & Mpho Tebele
Windhoek/Gaborone– Governments of Namibia and Zimbabwe have voiced their concern against the European Union (EU) Parliament’s proposed wholesale ban of importation of wildlife trophies into Europe. Botswana has, however, welcomed the proposal, as it strengthens Botswana’s domestic stance against trophy hunting.
Zambia issued new guidelines to direct and regulate trophy hunting of big cats this week after lifting a ban on trophy hunting last year.
The EU Parliament is planning to vote to ban hunting trophies entering the European Union. This follows the eruption of global outrage against the trophy hunting industry in Africa, mostly in Southern Africa, after the illegal killing of a popular lion affectionately called Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in July 2015 by an American trophy hunter.
Namibia’s Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the EU legislators are overlooking the importance of trophy hunting to local economies – how the money generated from the activity assists conservation efforts, and sustains local communities.
“The ban is expected to have negative repercussions on the Namibian tourism sector and the national economy in general in that the funds currently generated from trophy hunting will no longer be flowing into the national economy as a result of hunters not coming to Namibia for hunting of trophies,” Shifeta told The Southern Times.
Zambian tourism minister Jean Kapata this week said that without trophy hunting, most of Zambia’s wildlife in game management areas could have been decimated by now. Trophy hunting, she says, contributes significantly to wildlife conservation and to the socio-economic wellbeing of the Zambian people, Lusaka Times reported.
“[Trophy] hunting plays a very critical role in protecting the wilderness in [game management areas] and therefore, ecosystem provide goods and services the wilderness to our people,” Kapata said in a speech read for her at the cat hunting training workshop at Lusaka’s Cresta Golfview Hotel by Tourism and Arts Permanent Secretary Stephen Mwansa.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri says the ban would have major repercussions on Zimbabwe’s economy. “These machinations have far-reaching consequences, perpetuating negative perception of Zimbabwe’s hunting industry. From this meeting, the emphasis is on community benefits and participation, as we try to lobby the EU. It is important that we clearly point out the losses that the communities will incur if sport hunting is banned,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri while addressing delegates at a stakeholders’ conference on the code of ethics in safari hunting in Zimbabwe on April 11.
However, Botswana’s Environment, Tourism and Wild Minister Tshekedi Khama said he welcomes EU’s plan to ban trophy hunting and what the EU is doing is better than nothing. “They haven’t informed us officially and we are waiting to hear from them as to what exactly it is that they intend to achieve,” said Khama.
Shifeta nevertheless says the Namibian rural economy, which is “currently generating substantial revenue for communities involved in conservancies programme, will be affected by the ban too and poaching will increase, as communities will see no incentives in living with wildlife.”
Europeans are the major importers of wildlife trophies from hunting expeditions with reports indicating that between 2004 and 2013 more than 117 000 animal products identified as animal hunting trophies were legally imported into the EU. Trophies from African elephants are the most sought after by European hunters, followed by hippos and American black bears, while lions, leopards and baboons are also top on the list.
EU believes that it has to be a key player in the fight against wildlife crime across the world. Hence EU Parliamentarians are of the view that they have to participate in the call for a complete ban on trophy hunting imports entering EU.
The EU Parliament is expected to vote this year on whether to adopt the motion calling for the ban or not. This was after British lawmaker Neena Gill tabled a declaration in the EU Parliament earlier in February calling for a ban on trophy hunting imports into Europe.
The Namibia Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to actively campaign against any attempt to ban or restrict hunting and the export of wildlife products from the country.
“We have been hard at work engaging a variety of stakeholders both at home and abroad. I was privileged to have an opportunity to address the European parliamentarians in Brussels, Belgium, and in addition I have engaged the ministers of environment across Europe to present facts on hunting and the expected consequences the ban of trophies will have on our conservation efforts,” said Shifeta.
Khama observed that the EU has not done enough to help countries affected by poaching over the years. “They should do more on poaching; for instance, like the control of guns that are used by poachers. I think it’s a welcome move; they should go all the way and see how best they can help in anti-poaching. We have never got any help from the EU to stop poaching in Botswana,” said Khama.
Botswana instituted a ban on trophy hunting in 2014 and the decision is said to have resulted in loss of jobs and revenues by communities that relied on hunting activities. The local hunting industry generated about P336 million annually and more than 500 people at different levels of the tourism industry are said to have lost their jobs.
The decision was criticised by insiders, who believed that they should have been consulted before the decision was taken.
The Chairperson of Botswana Guides Association, Kenson Kgaga, said there was nothing they could do as far as the EU’s intension is concerned because even when the Botswana Government instituted the ban they were not brought on board.
He said they have tried on a number of occasions to have dialogue with relevant authorities in the country on how best the issue could be addressed but their efforts bore no fruit. Kgaga argued that there was no need to impose the ban because there are mechanisms already in place to control hunting.
The Botswana Wildlife Management Association had also weighed in arguing that government should continue to hunt for elephants in specific areas. Its spokesperson, Debbie Peake, was quoted as saying that “elephants are not declining or threatened as they are increasing at approximately 4 percent per annum and thereby spreading to other areas resulting in human-wildlife conflict”.
Shifeta said the Namibian government has “reached out to them [EU] by presenting facts on hunting and the expected consequences the ban of trophies will have on our conservation efforts”.
Several conservancies across Namibia have written letters not to institute a ban on the importation of wildlife products. There are 83 conservancies in the country that benefit more than 300 000 people in rural communities.
“This proposed ban is largely spearheaded by urban-oriented international community. People who have never lived with wildlife and therefore have no full understanding of the negative impact this possible ban will have on conservation. People who do not understand that trophy hunting has been an integral part of the successful Namibian conservation model,” Shifeta said.
The Governor of the Zambezi Region, Lawrence Sampofu, has pleaded with the European Parliament in a letter dated April 1, urging them to investigate how hunting has secured conservation in the north-eastern region, and not threatened it.
There are 15 community conservancies in Namibia’s Zambezi regions, which generated more than N$17 million (about Euros 1.1 million) in 2015.
“The results speak for themselves – since conservancies were established starting in the late 1990s, we have seen dramatic increases in the populations of wildlife in our region, including key species such as lions and elephants.
“Over the past two decades, the citizens of this region in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism have worked hard to secure a future for wild animals in our region,” Sampofu said a letter dated April 1, 2016, that was availed to media.
“In the Zambezi Region, if trophy hunting was to stop then 16 conservancies representing 30 632 adults covering 3 896 square kilometres would lose their most important source of income and in our region alone, 91 permanent and 71 temporary jobs would be lost.
“If the EU was truly committed to conservation, then we would urge you to further investigate the evidence that demonstrates how hunting has played a very critical role in securing sustainability through conservation, rather than threatening it,” the governor said.
Maxi Louis, the Director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO) said they fully support the position of the Namibian government in its opposition to a ban on the importation of hunting trophies to the EU, on the grounds that this would damage the Namibian economy and conservation efforts.
NACSO has also thrown its weight behind communal conservancies and Regional Conservancy Associations in their opposition to any ban on the importation of hunting trophies to the European Union.
“To date, the Kunene Regional Community Conservancy Association, representing 29 conservancies, 15 Zambezi Region conservancies, and the Kyaramacan Association representing residents in Bwabwata National Park have all written letters to MEPs, and conservancies in Kunene South and Erongo are currently writing letters in opposition to any proposed ban,” she said in an April 5 press statement.
Louis said NACSO is actively engaging with EU ambassadors in Namibia to apprise them on the risks of any ban.
In Zimbabwe, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said trophy hunting and wildlife movement were important in curbing the negative impacts of drought in the country.
“In light of the drought that has been induced by the El-Nino phenomenon, there is need to move wildlife from one area to another in order to reduce pressure on the ecosystem,” she said.
“However, before such measures, there is need to work together to ensure transparency. All translocations have to be done with the approval of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and I urge all those intending to do so to inform the Parks Authority of the numbers involved.”
She said the nation should strive hard to conduct the hunting business in a lawful manner saying illegal movements could result in losses to both the wildlife ranchers and the country’s economy.
“Not only does hunting and wildlife ranching benefit the individual players, but has far-reaching benefits on the lives of the most vulnerable citizens who are in communities around wildlife areas,” Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
“This therefore implores us to ensure that our actions and activities do not compromise the most vital stakeholder in the industry because any negative impact results in loss of benefits to these communities and mean loss of value of wildlife to them, a situation that will lead to increased conflict and poaching.” – Additional reporting by The Herald and Lusaka Times