Massive Noah’s Ark project attracts critics

As I write this, animals are being moved in big numbers from a wildlife conservancy in Zimbabwe to a national park in Mozambique in a project to restock wildlife that was annihilated during the Mozambique civil war.

The plan is to move 6,000 animals during the coming three years – and in the coming eight weeks alone the project will move 50 elephants, 100 giraffe, 900 impala, 300 wildebeest, 50 kudu, 200 zebra, buffalo and eland.

Surely this is good news? I certainly think so. But of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, and there are many animal rights activists who seem against the move. You see, these animals are being moved from a trophy hunting conservancy in Zimbabwe – and that fact alone creates distraction and heaps of angry criticism. Additional animals will be sourced from reserves in South Africa and Mozambique.

relocating animals, southern Africa, Peace Parks Foundation

©Antony Alexander, Peace Parks Foundation

Rather than spend the few moments I have with you on recapping the various arguments for and against trophy hunting, I will refer you to this recent excellent (and very long) story in the Guardian, which gives a good overview of the ups and downs of trophy hunting in Africa as a conservation tool, and of the views of animal rights activists opposing this project.

These issues are complex, and right now I wish to provide you with the basic facts of this project so that you can make up your own mind about its value as a conservation exercise.

The project

Project ‘Re-wild’, by Peace Parks Foundation, is one of the largest wildlife relocation projects in southern Africa. Commencing in June 2017, the project will see 6,000 animals moved from the Sango Wildlife Conservancy in the Savé Valley Conservancy of southeastern Zimbabwe, to their new home in Zinave National Park in Mozambique (a 600km journey).

The goal is to help develop Zinave into a tourist destination, as it is situated close to the Vilanculos-Bazaruto Archipelago, a popular coastal holiday area.

Zinave falls within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), an international conservation project driven by the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The animals have been donated by Sango, and the translocation costs are being funded by Peace Parks Foundation.

Additional animals will be moved to Zinave from South Africa and Mozambique. In October 2016, seven elephants were successfully relocated to Zinave from Maremani Nature Reserve in South Africa – a 1,500km journey. Maremani also permits controlled hunting.

map, southern Africa
The donor

Sango Wildlife Conservancy in the Savé Valley Conservancy of Zimbabwe relies on trophy hunting to pay 60% its overheads, with owner Wilfried Pabst funding the majority of the remaining requirements. Trophy hunters remove about 200 animals per year of the 200,000 animals estimated to live on Sango – a 0,1% offtake.

Pabst purchased Sango in 1993 when it was a cattle ranch, and converted the area into a sustainable wildlife conservancy.

Says Pabst: “In remote places and countries with a weak tourism industry and a high unemployment rate, it is very difficult – or almost impossible – to run a conservancy like Sango without income from sustainable utilisation”. He adds, “Nothing shows our ecological success more than our gift of over 6,000 animals to re-establish the Zinave National Park in Mozambique”.

Sango does attract small numbers of photographic tourists, but not enough to fund the running costs.

The recipient

The 408,000 ha Zinave National Park in Mozambique is about 20% the size of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The park is a transition zone between wet and dry tropical areas, boasts excellent wildlife habitat and used to support a wide diversity of species.

Initially a hunting reserve, Zinave was converted to a national park in 1972, but subsequently lost most of its wildlife during the 1980-1992 civil war, when bush meat was often the only source of protein for soldiers on both sides of the war.

Zinave National Park, Mozambique

Zinave habitat ©Bernard van Lente, Peace Parks Foundation

Summary

Thousands of animals will be moved from one of a few trophy hunting conservation success stories to a national park that needs help. That, in my view, is a good thing.

Yes, I am concerned about Mozambique’s appalling track record in conservation, with the magnificent Niassa National Reserve losing 70% of its elephants over the past four years, and consistent reports of systemic corruption that fuels the illegal wildlife trade, hardwood logging and mining. But I also believe in celebrating the success stories on merit.

The animal rights activists will emphasise that the act of hunting is morally bankrupt – which wins them a direct line to your feelings. Hunters will continue to pretend that the few shining lights in their heavily criticised industry are in fact representative of the entire industry. Both sides will claim to have facts to support their viewpoints.

It’s up to you to decide about this specific project. Keep the passion.

Simon Espley

Simon Espley is an African of the digital tribe, a chartered accountant and CEO of Africa Geographic. His travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells, and when not travelling or working he will be on his mountain bike somewhere out there. His motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". The views expressed in his posts are his own. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

  • Ken Watkins

    What a great move, Save is overcrowded!
    Not to sure that they will survive hunting/poaching in Mozambique, but it is worth a try.

  • Ken Watkins

    What a great move Save is overcrowded, not to sure they will be safe in Mozambique.

  • ericka hamburg

    Mozambique safe for wildlife? since when?

  • Oxpeckers Center

    Thanks for the very good explanation of this move, Simon Espley

  • Whattheh***

    All sounds good on paper, but the bush meat trade in Africa is apparently on the increase! So what makes the new park managers/owners think these new restocking activities are going to be successful? The poachers, bush meat sellers can make the whole devastating cycle happen all over again in Mozambique? I think moving animals around is actually not always the correct decision. Perhaps corridor projects between parks are better in the long term. With more humans living next to parks -[ not just in tourism], the need to become more creative in our long term thinking of living with wildlife is more urgent. However, taking from one area to another does not seem to be the answer, as the original problems the original animals faced, are still there and probably more intense. I have a problem that SA is under huge threat from poachers etc., from its immediate neighbouring countries, but is still selling animals to the same countries to restock their parks – devastated by prolific killing of the very species they are reintroducing. Somehow it does not make real sense!

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