Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT is disturbed by moves by the United States to frustrate wildlife trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and is engaging Washington over the matter, a senior official said yesterday.
The United States is in the process of promulgating an anti-trophy hunting law called ‘Cecil Act’ purportedly inspired by the killing of Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park by an American millionaire dentist, Walter Palmer, in 2015.
The killing of the globally famous lion sparked worldwide outrage.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr Munesu Munodawafa, revealed Government’s frustrations at Matopo National Park during the launch of the country’s Rapid Response Guide (RRG) toolkit on wildlife crimes yesterday.
A local non-governmental organisation that advocates for protection of animals, Speak for Animals, spearheaded the formulation of the toolkit with the involvement of stakeholders in various Government departments.
Mr Munodawafa said the US congress recently invited Government to make its presentation on the proposed law and Harare is still negotiating with Washington to understand its implications.
“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. 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 said.
Mr Munodawafa said Zimbabwe’s tourism industry thrives on wildlife conservancy and the proposed law would negatively affect conservation efforts.
He said the country benefits from controlled trophy hunts as revenues generated are used for anti-poaching mechanisms.
Mr Munodawafa said if the Cecil Act sails through, the country would regress on progress it has made in fighting wildlife crimes as Government cannot fund conservation efforts from its coffers.
“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. 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 said.
Speaking at the same event, acting deputy Prosecutor General Mr Innocent Mutsonziwa said it was curious that the Cecil law is being crafted after an American sparked global outrage by killing the famous lion.
“The law which is being crafted to deprive Zimbabwe and other African countries of benefiting from their wildlife is coming from the same country where that person (who killed Cecil) came from. So, as a thinker you must think big and say what was the plan. Was it just a coincidence or it was a well-planned thing that we do this and after so many years then we tie this country down so that it doesn’t develop? It can’t use its resources. These are things that those with huge imaginations should think about,” said Mr Mutsonziwa.
President Mnangagwa recently revealed that the country is considering pulling out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as it prevents Zimbabwe from benefiting from ivory stocks worth US$600 million. — @nqotshili.