People living adjacent to game parks have raised concerns over the proposed ban of international hunting and trade of elephants and lions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Villagers around Matopos National Park told The Herald that they were benefiting from sustainable wildlife conservation and tourism activities in the area.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has also urged CITES to first engage the communities before considering the ban. At its upcoming CoP17 to be held in South Africa next month, CITES had proposed to uplist elephants and lions from Appendix II to Appendix I.
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction, and if that proposal sails through, Zimbabwe will be banned from international hunting and trading of elephants and lions.
Government had already rejected the proposal and communities are also weighing in saying it would fuel poaching and conflict between people and wildlife.
A villager from Silozi area in Matobo Mrs Martha Ndlovu said: “We are benefiting from wildlife and tourism activities in this area. The game authorities allow us to cut hay grass from the park for sale, and we are sending our children to school from such proceeds.
“There are tourists who also come here to see wildlife and they buy our products as well. It should be noted that these animals need to be managed and that can only be achieved through commercial hunting and trade.
“Government should do everything in its capacity to stop the proposed ban we are hearing about.”
Matopos National Park camp manager Mr Emison Magodhi said: “We are doing various community projects including building houses for the elderly. As part of community engagement, we allow people to cut grass for sale in the park and that has proven to be one of the best tools to fight veld fires, especially during this period of the year.
“We are also employing local people for non-skilled duties during the on-going renovation exercise of our lodges. We have some of the best lodges that are attracting tourists from as far as Australia and Germany. We hope to do more community projects in future as long as we are allowed to continue doing sustainable wildlife conservation activities.”
ZimParks board member Mr Cephas Mudenda said it was hypocritical that countries that do not have wildlife were advocating such a ban.
Last week Campfire director Mr Charles Jonga said the real threat to wildlife was commercial poaching while hunting was one of the most practical conservation tools to fight poaching at both grassroots and international levels.
He said Campfire was complementing Government’s efforts, and those of other countries, in fighting shadowy international wildlife trafficking syndicates.