Cecil Lion ghost haunts Zim Govt

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ZIMBABWE government says it will launch a regional appeal to get the buy-in of Southern African nations in its efforts to stop the United States from bringing an anti-wildlife trophy hunting bill into law.

Government insists sport hunting contributes significantly to the US$30 million operational budget required by national parks and cutting off that tax revenue will impact heavily on conservation efforts.

The proposed legislation comes as CITES recently rejected a proposal by SADC countries to open trade to clear existing stockpiles of ivory, with Zimbabwe sitting on US$600 million worth of stock.

Zimbabwe believes clearing of the ivory stockpile would aid conservation efforts through procurement of equipment to curtail human-wildlife conflict.

And while that battle appears to have been lost, the door is slowly shutting on sport hunting following the CECIL Act, introduced by Congressman Raul Grijalva an Arizona Democrat in April.

The CECIL Act (Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing Importation of Large Animal Species Act), would impose a total ban on importing hunting trophies of elephants or lions taken in Tanzania, Zimbabwe or Zambia.

It would also ban the import of other sport-hunted trophies of “threatened species or endangered species” unless the country where it was hunted adequately provides for the species’ conservation.

Environment ministry permanent secretary Munesushe Munodawafa told reporters at Matopos National Park on Tuesday that Zimbabwe has successfully used sport hunting to benefit the development and economy of local communities.

“The background of the law is that there was a lion called Cecil which was shot in Hwange National Park under circumstances that are well documented,” he said.

Now what has since happened is that the American government is coming up with what they call the Cecil Act. The long and short of what is happening is that they are saying we need to protect certain species and for that to happen the effect of the law will be to prohibit the movement of trophies to America whether by airplanes going to America or even to prohibit the American hunters from coming here. That would be the effect of that law,” he continued.

Munodawafa said sport hunting entails ecological and economic sustainability because it is operated under strict regulations and generates enormous tax revenues.

He insisted sport hunting proceeds promote the protection of wildlife resources as well as both ecological and economic sustainability.

 “On average the operational budget, just the operational budget for national parks, is plus or minus US$30 million and that money has been coming in from various activities like sport hunting,” he said.

That is why we even fight the issue of the ban on ivory trade. If you look at it, ivory has been banned, trading in live elephants has effectively been banned, now they are moving to cut off trophies for buffaloes, for lions, for anything they are closing all the sources of revenue,” he added.

Munodawafa said the bill was not constructed in the spirit of advancing conservation efforts.

He tore into organisations that support the bill saying many would rather spend hundreds of thousands “by flying so-called experts into expensive hotels for conferences to argue” but cannot invest the same money in assisting African countries conserving wildlife.

Acting deputy Prosecutor General Nelson Mutsonziwa said it was sinister that United States will deal another blow to Zimbabwe, a few years after an American hunter killed Zimbabwe’s iconic lion.

Meanwhile, animal advocacy groups in the United States have applauded the proposed bill with Adam Roberts, Born Free USA’s chief executive officer, saying the legislation was long-awaited.

 “We’ve been talking about the number of lions that are killed across Africa for trophies — many more than 500 every year, with more than 60 percent of those being killed by American trophy hunters,” he said.

“So we’ve long highlighted the problem, but for many people, (they) are just numbers. It’s a very foreign concept to think about. However, when you take an individual like Cecil out of the family system and out of the ecosystem, it has dire consequences.”

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