Conservationists say Cecil was lured out of Hwange park, wounded with a bow and arrow and then tracked down and shot.
Deutsche Welle has been talking to Emanuel Fundira, chairman of the Safari Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe.
What does the suspension of hunting mean for safari operators?
It is a disaster not only for the operators, but also a disaster generally for the country. At this time of year, we are right in the middle of the premium period of our hunting season here in Zimbabwe. And, as you know, the procedure in hunting is that clients make advance bookings, which, in most cases, are made six months or a year before their actual hunt takes place. In this particular instance, we have clients who are already in transit or who are already in the field hunting the animals. It is going to be very, very difficult to restore any form of financial integrity and reputation for the industry out of this decision which has been made so abruptly.
You sound unconcerned about the fate of the animals at the hands of the trophy hunters?
We are very concerned at the state of the animals. You have to understand that we only use hunting as one of the tools for conservation. We hunt for conservation, we are only hunting animals on a scientific basis, based on a sustainable measure – a quota in a particular period. We are one good example where sustainable hunting is taking place successfully and it has impacted on the conservation of the same animals and on the communities that live with those animals positively.
Last week we interviewed Johnny Rodrigues, a Zimbabwean conservationist, who said that very little in the way of earnings from trophy hunting trickles down to the communities. What do you say to that?
That kind of source and information is not credible. More than 60 percent of resources derived from hunting is plowed back into conservation. And you must also understand that when we say ‘back into conservation,’ we mean ensuring that our wildlife is sufficiently guarded – in terms of resources, equipment, remuneration for the rangers who face the difficult task of securing those animals. People have a very narrow view when they say resources should only go to the community – how do you do that when you have to source the means of protecting that wildlife?
Can you see this suspension turning into legislation that will put an end to trophy hunting in Zimbabwe or is it only a matter of time before hunting resumes, perhaps on an even larger scale?
This is just a very, very temporary suspension to take stock of what has been happening. Mind you, in any industry there will be unscrupulous people, or operators, who take advantage of certain loopholes. What the government has decided to do is to take stock of what has been happening and make sure that they can nip some of these problems in the bud. That is why an emergency meeting has been convened with wildlife producers, civil society, operators and anyone interested in wild life to try and dissect and understand and come up with a common strategy to ensure that our wildlife is protected to the highest level.
Emanuel Fundira is the chairman of the Safari Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe