Zim has a big elephant problem, but is culling the answer?


Sharon Mazingaizo, TimesLive

Date Published

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Zimbabwe is considering culling its elephants to reduce its growing estimated population of 100,000, the second biggest in Africa after neighbouring Botswana.

Zimbabwe’s environment, climate, tourism and hospitality minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu told Sunday Times Daily that culling was an option because live elephant trade was no longer allowed.

“We traded in live elephants, but that avenue was closed through the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). That was a major blow because it meant we couldn’t generate revenue for our conservation. We have our own wildlife product that we cannot trade in, because it is banned through Cites.

“At the same time, the cost of conservation is rising substantially. The high human-wildlife conflict is also a major issue. Our communities are suffering. All these are a reflection that they’re fundamental problems that need to be addressed, so culling is an option, but we have quite a number of options we are looking at,” said Ndlovu.
Zimbabwe last culled more than 40,000 elephants between 1965 and 1988. And every year since 1991, Zimbabwe sells permits to hunt 500 elephants, and recently the government announced plans to sell the right to shoot 500 elephants to help fund the upkeep of its national parks.

The hunting season starts in April and lasts until October. Hunting rights for the elephants range from $10,000 to $70,000 depending on the size of the animal.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the 500 hunting permits account for less than 0.5% of the elephant population.

“The population grows by about 5% every year. We have above 100,000 elephants. Our maximum carrying capacity is 40,000. We need to reduce overpopulation. There are also cases of humans encountering elephant invasions and attacks. And we have never exhausted our elephant hunting quota of 500. We don’t exceed 250 harvests per season,” he said.

The culling and hunting rights of the elephants face opposition from local conservation groups. Farai Maguwu, the executive director of the Centre of Natural Resources Governance (CNRG), said the government needed to find other means to fund conservation.

“Quota hunting was started in 1991, with 500 elephants lost annually. Cumulatively this translates to 15,000 elephants having been lost over the past 30 years. Add elephants lost to poaching, drought and disease, the statistics are staggering.”

“We are witnessing a rise in number of citizens killed or attacked by elephants. Our investigations show that when elephants witness a member of their herd being gunned down, they develop resentment and mistrust for humans,” said Maguwu.