By Adam Cruise
Citing questionable management practices and lack of effective law enforcement, the United States has suspended imports of sport hunted elephant trophies. The US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a press release:Zimbabwe’s Elephants Staring Down A Barrel
“The information that is available raises significant concerns about the long-term survival of elephants in Zimbabwe.”
“Given the current situation in Zimbabwe the Service does not believe that the benefits of sport hunting will be realised…killing elephants, even if legal, is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that continue towards the recovery of the species.”
Americans make up the majority of trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, exporting an average of 160 trophies every year. But there has been a long lack of transparency surrounding the allocation of land and hunting licenses with concession awarded to those politically well connected, most of who are without any prior experience in wildlife management.
The suspension comes as fresh concerns emerge over the safety of Zimbabwe’s famous herd of Presidential Elephants. It has come to light that most of the state land bordering Hwange National Park where the elephants roam is to be ‘acquired’ and closed off with fears that it will become a hunting concession.
The claimant, it is believed, is the sister of a known Zimbabwe hunting safari operator named Rodger Madangure who owns a large hunting concession nearby and has recently appeared in court over illicit hunting operations. The claimant has forged ahead with the construction of a lodge and enclosing the area including two of the major water holes used by the herd. This comes despite a 2013 directive by Zimbabwe’s Cabinet stating that claims to the state-owned land be withdrawn.
To make matters worse, founder and driver behind the Presidential Elephant Conservation Project, Sharon Pincott, who has been monitoring and protecting the herd for the past 13 years announced that in lieu of current developments she is halting her work. Pincott cited repeated failures of government officials to stand by the 2013 decree as well as perpetual corruption and harassment.
“I cannot keep hitting my head against a brick wall year after year, with a lack of care and a lack of respect and understanding with these elephants growing – despite all the efforts – like an invasive weed over a pond smothering everything.”
Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) an organization that has worked closely with Pincott and the Presidential Herd said that“once you close an area down like this you know there is some hidden agenda, my concern is that these people will use it as a hunting area.” Rodrigues also warned that once Sharon goes the elephants will be doomed.
“They will be shot and that will be the end of the Presidential herd.”
Adam Cruise writes for the Conservation Action Trust