By Clement Malambo
Government has announced the resumption of this year’s hunting season after it lifted the ban on cat hunting in May 2015, according to a report by ZANIS.
Minister of Tourism and Art Jean Kapata told parliament today that Leopard hunting will resume in 2015/2016 hunting season while Lion hunting will only resume in the 2016/2017 hunting season with very cautionary quota where only two lions will be allowed in prime hunting areas and one in secondary and game ranches.
Ms. stated that the ban on cat hunting affected the consumptive tourism and safari hunting and consequently wildlife conservation and management because both the community and the private sector were pushed out of the picture in wildlife conservation.
The Minister explained that the ban on cut hunting denied surrounding communities access to the key resource of their economic livelihood whereas the safari companies could no longer sustain employees on their payroll.
Dispelling misconceptions that hunting is destructive because it involves killing, the minister said hunting significantly contributes to the conservation of the species if carefully done because the revenue is ploughed back into conservation activities thereby contributing to job creation.
She also told the House that the country has between 1,500 to 2,500 lions and about 4,000 leopards in all the three clusters namely Luangwa valley, Kafue and Lower Zambezi ecological systems.
She said Zambia is ranked highly in terms of its big cat population in the sub-region after Tanzania, South African and Botswana.
She said based on the current Lion population estimates, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed Zambia’s Lion population in Appendix II which means from the global perspective, Zambia’s lions population could be hunted and trophies derived from the hunts can be exported to other CITES member states.
Government effected the ban on cat hunting and suspended the Safari hunting in the 19 hunting blocks on 10th January 2013 due to weak regulatory mechanisms which led to declining population of lions but on 10th May this year the ban was lifted.
Contributing to debate on the lifting of the ban on hunting Mafinga MP Catherin Namugala expressed worry that lions and other species would deplete following the lifting of the ban because of illegal harvesting of lion.
And Chongwe MP Silvia Masebo also shared Mafinga MP’s sentiments and argues that the country has about 400 lions and not between 1,500 to 2,500 lions as reported by the Minister of Tourism.
Meanwhile the Minister of Tourism has disclosed that the Zambia Wild Life Authority (ZAWA) needs at least 3,500 wildlife police officers in order to effectively manage the wildlife estates at optimal levels.
Ms. Kapata told parliament that ZAWA currently has 1,250 wildlife police officers who manage wildlife estates in the country.