Zimbabwe’s safari operators have reported a dramatic rise in the photographic business, while the hunting side of the sector has declined, an executive said recently.
Zimbabwe earned an estimated US$60 million from trophy hunting and photographic safaris in 2014, up from US$45 million in 2013.
Estimates for 2015 were not yet available.
Myles McCallam, a member of the Tour Operators Association of Zimbabwe (TOAZ), said there was a sharp rise in revenues from photographic operations, which declined at the height of the country’s controversial land reform programme from 1999, after bad publicity affected arrivals.
“Most of the businesses have been registering year-on-year growth in the past five years,” McCallam told a stakeholder conference convened to explore measures to reduce wildlife poaching in Zimbabwe.
“They are coming back; the photographic business of our members is growing after declining from 1999. But hunting is declining,” he told the conference.
McCallam said among the issues affecting the growth of the hunting business was rampant poaching in the country’s national parks, where increasingly sophisticated poaching syndicates have decimated about 71 elephants in the Hwange National Park this year alone, through poisoning waterholes with the deadly industrial chemical, cyanide.
He warned both government and the private sector not to ignore communities in the fight to arrest the fast deteriorating poaching crisis because people living close to wildlife estates were facing problems to do with the destruction of their crops and livestock by elephants, lions and others.
“Poaching is a very big issue,” he said.
“Poor rural communities on the frontline of elephants and human conflict zones will simply not tolerate any crop damage and will take the law into their own hands,” McCallam said, noting that TOAZ had came up with incentives to encourage communities not to kill wild animals, or aid poaching.
TOAZ has paid thousands of United States dollars to communities under the project in the past few years.
Alistair Paul of the Africa Wildlife Foundation said community involvement was key in winning the war against poaching.
“We have had declining wildlife populations in the past five years,” he said.
“Wildlife is the key driver of nature based tourism. The concept of CAMPFIRE is the right thing to do,” he said, referring to the Communal Area Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, a programme that allows communities to benefit from the sale of wildlife resources.
“For people to co-exist with wildlife there has to be benefits and the benefits have to be better than the costs. Centralised control of wildlife has generally failed,” he said.