Saturday, November 12, 2011

Big game hunting useless to African economies, says IUCN

A comprehensive study ordered by IUCN on big game hunting as a tool for conservation in Africa has been released and translated into english, click here to read the full report on big game hunting.

Hunting used to have, and still has, a key role to play in African conservation. It is not certain that the conditions will remain the same. Hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance.

The question, however, can be summarised today as: can we do conservation better than big game hunting has up until now, in those areas where big game hunting is practiced? This is not at all sure, all the more so in that big game hunting pays for itself.

The advent of consideration of environmental services and sustainable financing makes it possible to envisage financing these networks from a new angle. The environment is increasingly seen as a global good which cannot be used exclusively for individual interests or those of a minority.

In modern protected area networks, hunting areas still have an important role to play in conservation: that of financing and maintaining the peripheral areas around conservation blocks.

The scale of big game hunting in Africa

Around 18,500 tourist hunters go big game hunting in Africa every year. Hunts are organised by approximately 1,300 organisations that employ around 3,400 guides and 15,000 local staff. On average, a hunting safari organisation will only have an average of 14.5 hunt clients per year and each guide will only take 5.5 hunters out annually.

The Places

Big game hunting areas take up huge areas of land: for the 11 main big game hunting countries, the surface area occupied is 110 million hectares, in other words 14.9% of the total land area of these countries. In addition to these hunting areas, protected areas occupy, in these 11 countries, 68.4 million hectares, i.e. 9.4% of the national territory.

The sum of the hunting areas and protected areas therefore represents 24.3% of the surface area of these countries. This leaves a proportion of the country for human habitation that is difficult to reconcile with the development of these countries, the population density of which averages 34 people per km.

Animals Killed

Tourist hunters kill around 105 000 animals per year, including around 640 elephants, 3 800 buffalo, 600 lions and 800 leopards. Such quantities are not necessarily reasonable. It can e noted for example, that killing 600 lions out of a total population of around 25 000 (i.e. 2.4%) is not sustainable. A hunting trip usually lasts from one to three weeks, during which time each hunter kills an average of two to ten animals, depending on the country.

Financial Flows

The annual turnover for big game hunting in Africa is estimated at $US200 million, half of which is generated in South Africa and the rest in the other countries of Sub Saharan Africa. The contribution to the countries' GDP is 0.06% for the 11 main big game hunting countries.

The contribution to national budgets is also low: one percent of the land classified as big game hunting territory contributes 0.006% to the government budget. The contribution of hunting to the national budget is highest in Tanzania, where it is still only 0.3% and uses 26% of the national land area.

Returns per hectare in big game hunting areas

On average, big game hunting generates a turnover of $US1.1/ha in the 10 big game hunting countries (excluding South Africa), which is very low compared to agricultural use (300 to 600 times more), in a context where the peripheral zones of protected areas are already occupied.

This figure does not reach the minimum ratio for the cost of developing a protected area (at least $US2/ha), and can be seen as the sole explanation for the gradual degradation of hunting areas. The local community's share is around $US0.10/ha (or 50 FCFA/ha), explaining their lack of interest in preserving hunting areas and their continued encroachment and poaching.

Low productivity of big game hunting

On average for these 11 countries, the surface area occupied by big game parks is 14.9% of national territory, and the contribution of big game hunting to the GDP is 0.06%. This makes the economic productivity of these hectares very low. This information shows that hunting is not a good option for land use, in particular in a context where priorities are to reduce poverty and establish food security.

However, big game hunting (unlike small game hunting) is essentially carried out on land exclusively reserved for that purpose. The least productive countries per hectare are Ethiopia (hunting areas have virtually disappeared there), Burkina Faso and Benin (where hunting trips are very cheap), Cameroon (where hunting areas are under high pressure from agriculture).

These are the countries where closing down of hunting could make the biggest contribution to development by freeing-up land that is not very economically productive (but what would the consequences be for conservation?). These are also the countries where it is most difficult to change local communities' attitudes to conservation, due to the lack of any gain for them.

Source: Wildlife Extra

Chinese nabbed in ivory haul on Vietnam-Chinese border

November 2011: Weighing more than a tonne and hidden inside bundles of cloth, more than a tonne of ivory has been confiscated from a river boat near the city of Mong Cai, close to the country's border with China.

Vietnamese officials say that scientific analysis confirms that all 211 items seized during the raid last month were, as suspected, African elephant ivory. Three people, all Chinese citizens, have been arrested and taken into custody for further questioning.

'This is an important seizure, TRAFFIC commends Vietnamese Customs on this important seizure, which is indicative of the increasing illegal trade of ivory within South East Asia. It is imperative that the origin and destination of the shipment be identified by authorities,' said Chris Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

‘It is vitally important that officials investigate the movement of ivory from Vietnam into China and prosecute those involved. This will require a coordinated effort among enforcement agencies in Asia and Africa. Only through joint co-operation between producer and consumer countries can the trafficking of ivory be effectively tackled.'

Officials believe that the shipment was intended for buyers in China and it is thought to have originated from Africa. Globally, illicit trade in ivory has been escalating since 2004 and demand from Asia is considered to be the leading driver of elephant poaching in Africa.

‘Since 2009, Vietnamese authorities have seized 9.3 tonnes of elephant ivory and earlier this year Chinese authorities apprehended another 2.2 tonnes of ivory moving across the Vietnamese border into a remote area of China,' says TRAFFIC's ivory trade expert, Tom Milliken.

‘These grim figures are testimony to just how active this illegal trade route is.'
This incident comes shortly after Vietnamese authorities seized more than 200 kg of ivory being smuggled in the north central province of Nghe An in September. Three men connected to the shipment were arrested by local authorities and are currently being held awaiting prosecution.

Finally, as a shocking ‘hot-off-the-press' footnote, according to a Vietnamese media report, customs in the port of Hai Phong seized 300 kg of ivory on at the beginning of the month. It is said to be imported by a company based in Mong Cai.



Oscar Nkala Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Early this month, parks director-general Vitalis Chadenga had a field day telling a sleepy assemblage of British, French and local journalists that the local independent media has been peddling lies and falsehoods to the effect that Zanu PF politicians, of which he is one, are part of the poaching syndicates responsible for the ongoing plunder of Zimbabwe's dwindled rhino population.

According to Chadenga, the poaching crisis is not an inside job but the work of sophisticated foreign syndicates, and allegations that most Zanu PF bigwigs are smart poachers are a callous lie told over and over by an independent media bent on destroying what remains of the tattered image of the country and by extension, reverse the gains of the reverred liberation struggle.

While Chadenga was busy searching for scapegoats, whistle-blowing site Wikileaks released an insightful cable in which American officials qouted ex-parks official and professional hunter Don Heath naming Zanu PF ministers and associates who are making a 'killing' from conservancies abandoned in haste by white farmers as they ran for life since 2000.

The US officials interviewed Heath to find the best ways of curtailing the safari businesses of Zanu PF leaders placed on the US and European Union sanctions list without causing a collapse of the hunting industry and at the same time, avoiding negative impacts on conservation efforts which include the survival of such endangered species as the African rhino.

The cable reveals as follows: "Establishing a connection between Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and their safari interests is difficult as these individuals are often careful to hide their direct involvement in the business.

According to Heath, the following Office of Foreign Accountant Control-sanctioned individuals are known to have a stake in a safari area concession, safari operator and private land/ private hunting reserve: former environment and tourism minister Edward Chindori-Chininga (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of army commander Constantine Chiwenga (Matetsi Unit 6 Safari Area); local government minister Ignatius Chombo (Chiredzi River Conservancy) and agriculture minister Joseph Made (Gwaai Valley Conservancy."

"The others are former mines minister Amos Midzi (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); Zanu PF national chairman, also former ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); mines and mining development minister Obert Mpofu (Gwaai Valley Conservancy), information minister Webster Shamu (Chirisa Safari Area and a 51 percent stake in Famba Safaris).

"His (Shamu's) wife also has a separate interest in the Chete Safari Area, but she is not on the sanctions list, Charles Utete (Gwaai Valley Conservancy); former CIO director-general Paradzai Zimondi (Charara Safari Area), Lovemore Chihota (Matetsi Unit 7) brother of Specially Designated National Phineas Chihota; Thandi Nkomo-Ibrahim, the daughter of former vice-president Joshua Nkomo (Tuli Safari Area), a sister to Specially Designated National Louise Nkomo who is the spouse of Specially Designated National Francis Nhema, the minister of environment."

The rhino conservation lobby is worried that unlike the political cables which appear to have altered inter-and intra-party relations for good due to the explosive disclosures made by some politicians who used the most descriptive terms to question the presidential qualities of their party leaders in secret meetings with the Americans, this environmentally friendly salvo from Wikileaks has been ignored - simply.

Unlike the politically sensitive Wikileaks disclosures which have sparked witch-hunts in both Zanu PF and the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, no one in this country seems worried about the wholesale plunder of wildlife in the conservancies despite mounting evidence.

Week in week out, we are confronted by news reports or network alerts of Zanu PF supporters invading one conservancy after another with encouragement from senior politicians, some being the same cabinet ministers who are supposed to ensure that normalcy prevails. Each time, the rhino and elephant population is always the first on the firing line because of the high value attached to ivory.

We know of many conservancies in the southern Gwanda and Beitbridge districts where poachers have now finished the rhinos and are now going for zebra and leopard for their skins, which we understand are bought for R800 by a very rogue South African taxidermist based at All Days, 100 km west of Musina across the border in South Africa.

We of the rhino lobby in Zimbabwe are deeply concerned and fear that the attitude displayed by Zanu PF proves that unlike the deeply embarassing and humiliating political satire that came out of Wikileaks which is being investigated quite furiously by the parties in government, the same people see no need for a parallel investigation into the poaching scandals exposed in the same way.

One reason could be that top Zanu PF officials are named as the lead plunderers, but all Zimbabwean leaders owe the worldwide rhino lobby a better explanation than sheer impunity and egoism for failing to deal as decisively with the rhino poaching crisis just as they pursue the so-called 'political issues' with energetic zealotry.

We posit that in countries where the rule of law is respected and not frowned upon like in ours, such allegations would have by now led to a high-level commission of inquiry into the operations of the concerned individuals and safari operators regardless of whether they are the chairpersons of village burial societies or the national chairpersons of the dominant political Mafioso.

However, we do so at the same time acknowledging that Zimbabwe may not be in a position to do so because the rule of law was the first to die of the ravages of the Third Chimurenga in which conservancies were invaded and the owners fled leaving rhinos and elephants wondering at the mercy of poachers who could not be arrested simply because they belong to Zanu PF, the president's party.

The cable also reveals wholesale corruption in the awarding of lucrative safari concessions in Gwayi, Hwange and the Matetsi safari areas with most concessions awarded without going to public tender. In some cases, Zanu PF regime insiders are known to have used their political links to bulldoze their way in to grab concessions at below market prices.

Zimbabwe needs a thorough audit of the concession holders, especially in the Hwange and Matetsi areas where some have held on to concessions since 1985 and the leases are renewed annually without ever going to tender.

Zimbabwe also needs a commission of inquiry into how the most lucrative hunting concessions in Gwayi, Hwange and Matetsi were, and continue to be allocated only to Zanu PF officials, their wives and close relatives. This country needs an honest parks and wildlife management authority led by professionals and not political party representatives as is the case now.

Instead of making a career out of denialism, Chadenga will be doing the nation proud if he tells the truth because from our own investigative sources inside the parks authority, we know that the department is fully aware of the who is who among the Zanu PF poaching elite.

Mugabe donates jumbos to China, two rhinos killed


Zimbabwe has donated 3 elephants to China. This was in appreciation for the fact that China helped President Mugabe's wife build an orphanage for 1000 children.

On the 19th May this year, President Mugabe reaffirmed the Presidential Decree, protecting the Presidential Herd of elephants. We do not know where the 3 donated elephants came from but on the one hand, the president is promising to protect the elephants, and on the other, he is giving them away - subjecting them to a long traumatic journey which they may not even survive.


Towards the end of October, Charara residents spotted an injured hippo on the flood plain. The hippo was clearly suffering and at least 2 people reported the matter to Kariba National Parks and asked them to come and put the animal out of its misery. Four days later, National Parks had failed to respond and the hippo died. If National Parks had only responded quickly, this poor animal could have been saved a lot of pain and anguish.


Two rhinos were killed by poachers in the Mazunga Conservancy area of Beit Bridge. One of the poachers, Lloyd Ndou was shot by game ranchers and is now fighting for his life. His four accomplices have escaped with rhino horns worth $120 000.

Source: Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce