On Wednesday the Zambian government held a stakeholders meeting in Lusaka in an attempt to thrash out some of the issues surrounding the crisis within the local trophy hunting industry.
Chaired by the Vice-President (VP), Dr Guy Scott, those in attendance included a cross-section of hunters, wildlife managers, eco-tourism consultants, outside observers, government personnel and community leaders.
According to sources, in his opening address the VP conceded that the hunting industry was in a mess and that the government of the day was “determined to fix it”. Those in favour of having the ban lifted put forward the traditional economic arguments about jobs and foreign income, and pointed out that these revenues would go elsewhere in the region if the ban remained.
While some community leaders called for the ban to be lifted as hunting provides meat and incomes and there was no photographic presence in the GMA’s, others claimed it should remain in place on the grounds that communities receive little of the oft quoted benefits and that the industry is not sustainable. There were also calls by Zambian delegates for the local Zambian operators to be allowed far greater participation as typically they get allocated few areas and these are the poorer ones. Some also alluded to the fact that greater participation for local Zambian operators will ensure a lot more revenue being taken inside the country. And one delegate proposed that ownership of the GMA’s be turned over to the communities.
There seemed to be consensus on the need to reform ZAWA, tackle poaching, conduct a thorough nation-wide wildlife count, and if the hunting industry remains, to clean it up. There was also discussion on a wildlife-ranching industry.
An outside observer (someone with a long and successful history within eco-tourism) asked to address the meeting praised the decision to ban hunting and called on the government to follow the example of Botswana. He went on to say that Zambia had massive potential as a photographic destination and was currently operating its wildlife tourism industry at way below this.
The Minister of Tourism & Arts, Sylvia Masebo, addressed the meeting towards the end. She confirmed that the ban was put in place because of irregular tender processes. She emphasized that the big cats would not be coming back onto quota as numbers had fallen dramatically, and that the communities were not benefitting in the way they are supposed to. She went on to claim that Zambia only earned $3 million annually from the hunting industry and that this was not enough to warrant having such large numbers of animals shot.
Sources have also claimed that the Minister has indicated the 200 odd sable corralled outside Lusaka will not be allowed to leave the country under any circumstances. This certainly ties in with other sources that reveal members of the South African syndicate owning the sable have now turned their attentions to buying land inside Zambia. One must assume that the sable will then be moved onto private land for breeding and hunting purposes. This should come as a warning to Zambian authorities and wildlife managers – canned hunting and all the other horrific practices allowed in South Africa may very well be set to flourish in Zambia.
In other developments, there have been counter-claims from opposition politicians and from those within the hunting industry that the Minister cancelled all hunting licences for personal reasons as people connected to her did not win any of the concessions. To date, these accusations seem to carry little weight.
And then across in Zimbabwe, there have already been calls from some quarters within that country for the government to follow the example set by Botswana and Zambia and revoke all hunting licences.