By Ian Michler
Towards the end of last week Zambian wildlife authorities suspended the tender process for hunting concessions and cancelled all hunting licences for the foreseeable future.
According to sources and local news reports, Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo has based her decision on corruption and malpractices between the hunting companies and various government departments. She also fired the Director-General of the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), Edwin Matokwani, as well as a number of other officials, and has instigated an in-depth criminal investigation of ZAWA and other wildlife bodies.
According to the Minister, she has received widespread support for her actions.
There seems to be confusion about the time period involved, with some sources stating that the suspension is only for a year. Others have suggested that the cancellation may be extended to five years in order to allow a thorough review of the hunting industry and the role it plays in Zambia. Sources have also indicated that the authorities are in serious discussions with outside wildlife bodies, with a view to them playing a more significant role in managing Zambia’s parks and reserves.
These actions come just 14 months after the previous board of ZAWA was dissolved by the newly elected president, Michael Sata, and indicate that Zambia has still not rid itself of the cartels that are rumoured to have dominated hunting in that country for decades.
I would certainly encourage the Zambian authorities to use this opportunity to take a closer look at the Botswana model that has recently stopped trophy hunting altogether. In the long term, photographic options offer far superior benefits at every level.
These developments are no doubt linked to confirmation earlier in the week that Zambian authorities have also established that foreign-registered light aircraft are involved in smuggling wildlife out of the country. Using small landing strips, these flights also violate Zambian airspace as they are being undertaken without authorised flight plans.
Readers of Africa Geographic magazine will recall my article, Sable Shenanigans (February 2012) on the 200-plus sable, owned by a South African wildlife breeding and hunting consortium, that still remain corralled outside Lusaka. In that piece, I mentioned the possibility of illegal flights taking young sable calves out of the country as the syndicate was desperate to start making money on their investment in the animals. The sable deal has direct links to the trophy hunting industry – the primary motivation for South African breeders to be involved is to supply sables with longer horns so that hunters will pay higher prices for their kills. More....