In order to combat lost tourism revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe will be issuing quotas for up to 500 elephants to fund conservation efforts and community development.
The proceeds from the move will be partly used to fund their conservation and anti-poaching efforts, particularly the purchasing of equipment, and will also be used to develop infrastructure for communities in rural areas, including the construction of “school, clinics and roads.”
The initiative will be overseen by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which is the only state wildlife management agency in the world that does not receive funding from the central government for conservation purposes.
The authority, whose budget is reliant on revenues from international hunting activities, has been struggling to maintain their operations in the wake of the pandemic and its associated travel restrictions. The sustainable offtake of elephants is now expected to raise significant funds to support the ongoing work of the organisation.
The move is also expected to assist in tackling the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) that has occurred as a result of the high elephant population.
This news comes weeks after IUCN listed the African forest elephant as critically endangered, and the African savannah elephant as endangered, on the IUCN Red List (a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity).
Many have now criticised the move to issue elephant quotas, citing this new listing as their reasoning, however the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have stated the plans will be done in “a sustainable manner” and that they will “abide by international wildlife trade regulations governed by CITES and our national laws.”
It should be noted that while species may be listed as endangered or critically endangered at an international level, locally healthy or even over-abundant populations of the same species remain possible where successful conservation programmes are in place. Zimbabwe currently has the second largest population of elephants in the world, the first being Botswana; this highlights the difference in population numbers that can exist, despite sharing the same status in the IUCN Red List.
Willy Pabst, owner of Zimbabwe’s Sango Wildlife Conservancy, the largest privately owned land area within the Save Valley Conservancy, stated the following on this news in relation to the new listings:
“Whilst some 28% of Zimbabwe’s landmass is set aside for wildlife, the current population of 85,000 elephants is about 40,000 elephants too many for the country to maintain a balanced habitat and food base for all grazing and browsing species.
To put matters in to context, the offtake of 500 elephants per year amounts to some 0.6% of the country’s national herd against an average reproduction rate of around 5 – 7% pa. This is indeed a very sustainable offtake approach by Zimbabwe, which does not even put a dent into the general growth of the elephant population in the country.
In the Sango Wildlife Conservancy, we grew from some 500 elephants translocated to us from another park in 1995 to some 2,600 elephants today. Through ecological assessments of the available fauna, we have proven that we have some 1,500 elephants too many, which causes enormous ecological damage. Zimbabwe is most certainly not a country in which elephants are broadly endangered; it can be argued that their populations are too high and to the detriment of many other species and their food bases.”
The CIC supports this initiative to generate benefits for wildlife conservation and human-wellbeing through the sustainable and regulated offtake of elephants in Zimbabwe. In areas where elephant populations are not abundant, and therefore not eligible for offtake, we continue to call for the use of time bound hunting moratoria to help the recovery of populations in need of recovery.