By Kudzai Kuwaza
SAFARI operators recorded an estimated 20% drop in revenue last year due to the ivory ban by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the outbreak of the Ebola virus, businessdigest has learnt.
In April last year, the USFWS announced a suspension on imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Tanzania and Zimbabwe during the calendar year of 2014.
“In Zimbabwe, available data, though limited, indicate a significant decline in the elephant population. Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicised poisoning last year(2013) of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are also under siege,” the organisation said.
“Given the current situation on the ground in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the Service is unable to make positive findings required under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and the Endangered Species Act to allow import of elephant trophies from these countries.”
The Ebola virus broke out last year in Africa killing thousands particularly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and sparked fears that the outbreak would spread to other countries on the continent.
Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe chairman Emmanuel Fundira told businessdigest this week that an estimated 20% of revenue was lost in 2014.
“We have been hit by the Ebola outbreak and the ivory ban and it is difficult to put a number on it,” Fundira said. “The projection is about a 20% downturn which is substantial. The impact has been quite severe.”
Fundira said the association continues to lobby against the ivory ban, saying the feedback they received has been “extremely positive” but not to the point where they would want as an association.
“We have not moved away from the table. We continue lobbying,” he said.
He pointed out that although the association has been looking for alternative markets, it would take from one to three years to realise substantive benefits from these source markets.
The ban has affected the livelihood of 800 000 families under the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, a community-based natural resource management programme in which Rural District councils, on behalf of communities on communal land, are granted the authority to market access to wildlife in their district to safari operators.