The Sunday Mail

Martin Kadzere
Senior Reporter

Zimbabwe has engaged United States wildlife management agencies to help lobby against the proposed law (Cecil Act) seeking to ban trophies from Africa, conservation advocates have revealed.

The US House of Natural Resources Committee in September this year passed the Cecil Act — a law that is likely to have serious ramifications to the country’s wildlife earnings.

The Cecil Act, also known as the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Hunted Animal Trophies Act now awaits a vote in the US House of Representatives.

The Act, apparently motivated by the 2015 killing of Cecil the Lion outside Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North province, will ban the importation of trophies from Africa (Zimbabwe included) to curb perceived barbaric killings.

American dentist Mr Walter Palmer grabbed the global news headlines after killing Cecil the Lion. Its death sparked heated debate and outrage around the world.

The legislation would greatly limit the ability of sport hunters to import trophies of species that have been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), such as giraffes, but have not yet been granted the protection afforded by the law.

Britain is also proposing a similar policy to prohibit hunters from taking hunted trophies back to the UK from parts of Africa. Britain and the US account for about 80 percent of the market for hunted trophies from Africa.

The proposed banning of trophies from Africa by the US and its ally, Britain, threatens Zimbabwe’s lucrative wildlife industry and also compromises its wildlife management policies.

Chairman of Zimbabwe Safari Operators Association Mr Emmanuel Fundira told The Sunday Mail Business that two US wildlife agencies — Safari Club International Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Services — had been engaged to assist Zimbabwe in lobbying against the law that could potentially lead to the demise of the wildlife industry.

Safari Club International is a US-based organisation of more than 50 000 hunters dedicated to protecting the right to hunt and to promote wildlife conservation.

On the other hand, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is the oldest federal conservation agency, tracing its lineage back to 1871, and the only agency in the Federal government whose primary responsibility is management of fish and wildlife for the Americans.

“We have made a lot of noise in terms of lobbying against the law,” said Mr Fundira in an interview. “Three weeks ago, we organised a familiarisation tour to expose them to some of our facilities (conservancies) in Dande, which are run though Campfire; in Matetsi run by the State and a privately owned Bubiyana Valley Conservancy so that they can have an appreciation of the successes we have made in terms of wildlife management.

“They made an undertaking that they will lobby the House of Representatives. We decided to use the Americans themselves to lobby against the law. I am almost certain that the law will not be passed by the US House of Representatives.”

For Zimbabwe, the social and economic impact would be so drastic as more than 800 000 households depend directly and indirectly on wildlife resources.

“Wildlife use has provided a healthy safety net for the marginalised rural communities in Zimbabwe whose livelihoods depend on this resource,” Mr Fundira said recently.

“Up to 1,7 million animal remains (that) leave their native area following trophy hunts end up in the US.”

Mr Fulton Mangwanya, the director of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, in an article published in the Washington Examiner recently, said it was disappointing that some US lawmakers were focused on legislation rooted in unrealistic ideologies that would disempower the Government and local communities.

Banning the importation of trophies from Zimbabwe would not contribute in any way to the conservation of ecosystems. In fact, it would have the opposite effect.

“Lawmakers who don’t believe this inconvenient truth are welcome to come visit us in Zimbabwe and see for themselves,” said Mr Mangwanya.

“I would personally welcome them to our national parks that are endowed with diverse wildlife resources and our local communities that live with wildlife so that they can share the successes and challenges of living with such iconic and yet dangerous wildlife species.”