By Elita Chikwati
Zimbabwe has run out of storage space for ivory and rhino horns owing to the US-imposed ban on the importation of elephant trophy from Zimbabwe. The country, which is also holding on to 70 tonnes of ivory and five tonnes of rhino horns is, however, considering exporting live animals to alternative markets such as Asia, France, United Arab Emirates and Europe.
The move by the USA has discouraged most trophy hunters from visiting Zimbabwe who have since diverted to other routes such as Botswana.
Speaking during a media tour of Hwange National Park last week, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Acting director general, Mr Geoffreys Matipano said American citizens could hunt in Zimbabwe but were not allowed to take the trophies to the USA, which means there is no motivation for the hunters to come to Zimbabwe. The US move was not only crippling the economy but was posing a threat to the environment.
Mr Matipano said Hwange National Park had an elephant population of 45 000 when the carrying capacity was 14 000. "The rhino horn stocks are under threat from weevils and this will result in the deterioration of the quality and value of the resource," he said.
He said the park was facing challenges of poaching, inadequate seed money for research, fire management and transport such as boats and planes.
The park is struggling to provide enough water for the wildlife and has established artificial sources that are expensive. "We have been selling elephant tusks to local people involved in carving but the revenue is small. Of late the carvers have been complaining of low business and we reviewed our prices downwards.
"Most trophy hunters used to come from America and for a single trophy, the hunter could pay above US$30 000," he said.
Hwange National Park area manager, Mr Trumber Jura, said the park depends on artificial water supplies for eight months. He said they use diesel engines to pump the water. "We have more than 80 boreholes and 49 are pumped at the same time. We require 500 litres of diesel and $800 to pump water per borehole per month," he said.
Mr Jura said the park was also faced with shortage of manpower.
The park relies on one ranger per 100 square kilometre instead of 20 square kilometres. Hwange National Park ecologist, Mr Tinaapi Madiri said the large population of elephants has resulted in the increase in costs for conservation, crop destruction for communities, human injuries and loss of lives as well as damage to infrastructure.
Zimbabwe is a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments.
Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Under CITES, Zimbabwe is allowed a once-off sale in ivory. The country will forward a proposal to sell again ivory after its 2009 sale in 2017.