ZIMBABWE’S safari sector has lost revenue of nearly US$100 million due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, a new report has revealed.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

With flights grounded, hunters continue to cancel bookings for 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Zimbabwe has recorded more than 500 cases of COVID-19 infections and 6 deaths.

The industry said close to 90% of the bookings, which are equivalent to 8 000 hunting days have been cancelled to date. 

In its latest report titled: “The effects of COVID-19 pandemic on communities and conservation efforts in Zimbabwe,” the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) said the wildlife sector was facing a bleak future.

“The national lockdowns have cast a dark spell on the wildlife sector. This sector relies to a large extent on foreign customers that include trophy hunters and tourists who come to Zimbabwe by air and road,” the report read in part.

Without any trophy hunting, Zela said most areas would likely witness a reversal of wildlife conservation efforts.

“Some community members may likely embark on activities that are detrimental to conservation. These may include cutting trees for sale as firewood, or co-operation with poachers for a reward,” Zela said.

“One of the widely held views among conservationists is that local communities harbour external poachers by giving them information and hosting them during their expeditions. As a result of the COVID-19, the lure of getting a few dollars to sustain one’s family may prove irresistible for some community members.”

Under these circumstances, Zela said it was most likely that cases of poaching and illegal wildlife trade would increase. 

“With less revenue coming into the sector, conservation efforts have been crippled. It has affected the ability of anti-poaching units in Victoria Falls to continue the work on the ground as they support the national parks. Many of the anti-poaching patrols have had to scale down or, in some cases, closed off completely,” Zela said.

“In this district, since the lockdown, the cases of wildlife crimes are increasing. As a council we have stepped up our anti-poaching efforts since these are some of the critical services that we are allowed to carry during the lockdown However, our efforts are being frustrated by lack of personal protective equipment for game scouts,” one of the officers in Mbire district said.

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